About 15 years ago I was in a rather contentious meeting with Digital Equipment Corporation (acquired by HP in 1998), Oracle Corporation and an IRS client. I was running the business unit for a company that was building a software system that would help map W2’s with tax returns. During the meeting, the senior IRS client asked the question “Who is accountable for ordering the new hardware?” It seemed like a logical question. We were having performance issues and the client decided to upgrade the servers. Well after a very long and silent pause, a very sheepish person raised their hand and asked “what do you mean by accountable?” Needless to say, the hardware was not ordered in time but I never forgot that moment. There were so many cooks in the kitchen, it became very easy to pass the buck.
On the flip side, I had a great conversation this week with Bruce Ballengee, CEO of Pariveda Solutions out of Dallas. Bruce and Pariveda have institutionalized a corporate pillar called the “expectations framework” where they explicitly call out what is expected of everyone in the organization, leaving virtually no room to avoid being accountable.
To see if your organization could use an accountability boost, take the following test. The more times you answer ‘yes’ the more accountable your organization is. Too many ‘no’ answers should make you flinch!
1. Many people think their career development plans are their responsibility and not their supervisors.
2. Most people have a little too much on their plate.
3. Employees are comfortable going outside their own project boundaries or job descriptions in order to get the job done right.
4. We take action and follow-up on the results of assignments made during meetings.
5. We are usually given increased authority, resources and encouragement when given increased responsibility.
6. The leadership takes ownership for the shortcomings as well as the successes of the organization.
7. The “way things are” (people, processes and structure) rarely gets in the way of real progress.
8. We know our principles and values and enforce them at all levels.
9. We don’t engage in “finger pointing” or the “blame game” when things go wrong.
10. When mistakes or failures occur, we think of them as tuition and teach everyone else what we learned.
11. Most of our compensation and reward systems reinforces the desired behaviors we need to be successful.
12. Most of us treat adversity as a learning opportunity and commit to moving forward with even greater wisdom.