What Does Accountability Mean?
Many times, projects fail due to passing blame. “She owns that, not me.” “I can’t do my job because he isn’t doing his.” What does this really solve? You guessed it – NOTHING. In this blog, the traditional definition of accountability will be challenged and I will outline a few tips on how to drive accountability within your team and organization. The Gap Between Words and Action Think about what accountability means to you. Some common definitions include words such as “obligation”, “responsibility”, and “ownership”. Too often, many align accountability with darker connotations such as “blame”, “liability”, and “punishment”. It is time to think about accountability differently. Consider this definition: “A mentality to demonstrate the ownership necessary to achieve defined result criteria.” Now, let’s push it a little further. To achieve success, your ownership will require expansion outside of your designated role. For leaders, portions are easier to understand: you are responsible for the actions of your team. However, this idea should expand to our peer relationships. If you recognize that a peer is failing and it is going to impact results negatively then you are accountable to do something. That specific “something” depends on the situation and your skillset. How does this apply to a project setting? In my past, I was on a project in which the stream (let’s call it Stream A) I was leading had adjacencies to another stream (Stream B) that was being led by a peer. The leader of Stream B was competent at his business role but had never led an implementation before. Additionally, he lost a key resource from his team that was supporting the project work. I had two choices: sit back and watch OR act. I am very aware that it would have been easier for me (and my team) to sit back. However, the success of the overall project was not just Stream A so I could not sit back and watch. My first conversation was with the leader of Stream B. He was in over his head and admitted the need for help. My second stop was with my direct manager to share how I could support the success of Stream B. In tandem, the leader of Stream B went to his boss to discuss the plan for success. It was not a fun conversation for him to have but he set his ego aside and acted before it was too late. We got back on track and had a successful implementation. Remember, when the project goes sour, EVERYONE is accountable. The Key(s) to Success The first key to creating an accountable culture is to define clear expectations on what is successful and how it will be measured. The best measurements are hard numbers or dates. To ensure engagement and ownership, include as many team members as possible in defining success and result criteria. This approach will allow the team to be part of the solution and less resistance will occur. Next, accountability must be visible and upheld […]