Dispelling the haze around responsibility and accountability lays the foundation for breakthrough performance during culture change.

In part one of this two part blog series, we highlighted accountability as one of the nine facets of organizational culture. We defined accountability as essentially, “being answerable for”.

Establishing a culture of accountability and responsibility gives you the basic strength and flexibility needed to transform your organization’s culture. Just like placing steel rods of rebar in concrete, they make it flexible, stronger, and more resilient.

What is responsibility and how does it relate to accountability?

Responsibility is defined as:

  • The quality of a person who can be trusted to do what is expected, required, etc.
  • The state of having the job or duty of dealing with and taking care of something or someone.
  • Involving important duties, decisions, etc., that you are trusted to do.

Thus when working for culture change, it is valuable to view responsibility as being broader than accountability. Responsibility involves a quality of being trustworthy and dedicated; not only to your specific job accountability, but reaching beyond those particulars.

  • For example the CEO of a company is responsible for all aspects of the company. In that role there will be specific accountabilities she/he executes, and other specific accountabilities that are delegated. Still, as CEO they will operate from being responsible and accountable for the organization overall.
  • It is also possible that a valued employee in any role in the organization can work with a perspective of responsibility for the company as a whole, although that is not their specific accountability. You will often find this kind of person acting successfully as trusted and informal leader.

Building the foundation for breakthrough performance during culture change starts with interrupting any unclarity or avoidance.

Unfortunately unclarity about who is responsible, accountable, and for what, is often the norm.

A condition of unclarity is commonly characterized by various ways of avoiding responsibility and accountability. Stories and excuses for why the results aren’t at intended levels sometimes even masquerade as accountability in this condition.

In this kind of culture, instead of strong threads of accountability and responsibility supporting the foundation of the organization, you have an unstable structure vulnerable to crumbling.

Transforming this common cultural haze can begin with three simple actions:

  • Interview a cross section of people and ask what they are responsible for in their job; what results they are accountable for and to whom.
  • Map accountabilities out and clarify with all people who interface.
  • Begin to have regular conversations where people can “account” for their outcomes. What was accomplished and not and the actions for each? “I said I would produce ‘x’ and I did or did not, and the actions or inactions that led to that result are…” without blame or story.

Through establishing this kind of fresh approach to accountability you can begin to inspire a new culture with a solid foundation for breakthrough performance.

What can you do this week to strengthen the culture of accountability for yourself and those around you?

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