“The achievement of business outcomes depends on the culture in which people work together to produce results.”
Mark Samuel, Creating the Accountable Organization*
Most leaders nod in agreement with the statement ‘organizational results are directly tied to culture. Culture is defined as how people work together to achieve the end result; the result of a collective mindset and the behaviours that support that mindset.
Following are 6 steps you might take in your organization to design accountability with intention:
Step 1: Clear Direction from Executives
The first step is to be clear on the vision and business strategy for change based on external drivers, internal goals, and values of the organization. It takes a commitment to supporting higher levels of accountability and monitoring both effort and results. If you can clearly articulate your direction, provide employees with a compelling picture of the future and the culture needed to achieve that future, the team will align themselves and achieve those results.
Step 2: Shared Accountability with Middle Management
Middle Managers are the change agents for creating an accountable organization, but they can’t do it in silos. Leaders and the organization thrive in a team environment, working together to direct the organization operationally. Middle managers take direction from the senior leadership and are responsible to prioritize the operational changes necessary. They develop accountability agreements among themselves for making decisions, sharing resources, and communicating/speaking with one voice to the organization. Breaking down silos, taking ownership for the results of the organization, and establishing more effective habits of performance execution contribute to achieving breakthrough results.
Step 3: Personal Accountability for All Employees
Although middle managers can have a huge impact toward greater accountability and achieve breakthrough results within a six months to a year, supervisors and employees must be introduced to accountability and gain clear understanding of the benefits ‘to them’ and ‘the organization’. Employees will create their own personal vision of excellence – their personal plan for improvement to become more accountable with their teammates, your customers, and any others they impact. As each person takes small steps – the entire organization feels the positive impact.
Step 4: Shared Accountability in Departments, Work Units, and Project Teams
As middle managers work more effectively with cross-functional accountability, supervisors and other employees will adopt more personal accountability. Now you are ready to start developing shared accountability, supporting the teams that produce the most results to identify success factors of performance excellence.
Step 5: Accountable Performance Management
Now your role as a senior leadership team is to guide and coach the middle managers, who in turn will guide and coach the supervisors, who in turn will guide and coach their teams to ensure every individual is living to his/her commitments. A successful system for managing performance that supports you in:
- Effectively diagnose the improvement needs for each direct report
- Prioritize the focus of improvement
- Develop effective ‘non-defensive’ forms of communication to coach people
Accountable performance management provides a dedicated time for managers to acknowledge individuals for their professional growth and contribution to team results and to develop plans for career advancement.
Step 6: Measurement, Celebration, and Renewal
As you continue to get better systems that track measurable improvements in performance execution and the achievement of organizational deliverables, sharing these results to the entire organization will solidify accountability and give everyone the opportunity to celebrate. It is when you are acknowledging success that you can identify areas for improvement and refinement to move your organization to the next level of excellence.
Organizations need to demonstrate accountability to achieve results. It is the core of employee satisfaction and high performance. Without organizational accountability, an organization cannot adapt to change effectively. There will always be new problems, ‘higher level’ problems, but you will have the skills and will to solve them.
* Used with permission and in partnership with Mark Samuel, Author of Creating the Accountable Organization