What is Accountability?

What is Accountability?

Last month I addressed why so many cultural programs implemented within organisations fail, and what are the key things to focus on for any program to succeed.  I mentioned that understanding the philosophy and DNA of the organisation was critical to achieve success in transformation. And I raised the term “Accountability”.  I want to explore that further this month.

Many organisations use the term accountability loosely, interchanging and confusing it with responsibility, but there is significant difference between the two.  Responsible people are assigned tasks to be completed typically within a time frame; responsibility can be shared.  Accountability on the other hand cannot be shared; the accountable person is the one who is ultimately answerable for the decision or activity, the buck stops with them.

If we use the case of implementing a cultural program in a business, the CEO/MD will have accountability to a Board to ensure the program is delivered in accordance with a plan.  The leadership team and their managers will be assigned responsibility for tasks to be completed so the overall program is achieved.  These responsibilities can be re-assigned and broken down, but the accountability remains the same.  Accountability can be assigned at any level of a business, providing those assigned are answerable for the results.

Why did I specifically want to focus on Accountability?   I have been seeing more and more that accountability within organisations has deteriorated, allowing the values and principles of the business to diversify and shift away from a common focus, and weakening its structure and integrity.  Achieving meaningful performance goals requires accountability, which rests equally across all senior management, yet I see less of the CEO/MD/GM holding his direct reports to account to achieve expected targets.  Why is this?  It again comes back to culture, and allowing an acceptable standard below what is expected.

Let me encourage you today to reflect upon the standards within the workplace, assess the degree of accountability, and challenge yourselves to step-up and drive the expected level of accountability required to achieve results.