I am always intrigued by examining two competing companies – same industry, similar in size, essentially operating within the same business model – that produce dramatically different results.

Take two rivals in the Pharmaceutical sector for example: both engage in discovery, R&D, product optimization, and manufacturing.  Both companies are obviously bound by the same FDA and rest-of-world regulations and policies.  So what is that has one company succeed where the other one struggles?  What are the differentiators on an otherwise relatively level playing field?

I would argue (and I believe evidence will show) that a key component is Accountability.

Accountability is a condition – one in which people are required or expected to act consistent with their commitments and be responsible for their actions or decisions.

What accountability is not

However, in too many organizations people account for their unfulfilled promises by giving an explanation for why the result wasn’t produced – “The Formulations group didn’t get us their work on time, so we couldn’t meet our timeline”, or “The competition has too strong a share of the market for us to make our sales targets”.

What you wind up with is a destructive formula: (Not keeping a commitment) + (A good explanation) = producing the promised result. This is the antithesis of Accountability.

Always accounting

When one is being accountable they are able to lay out the actions they took and the actions they did not take that led to the outcome. This needs to happen in the instance where you fulfill your commitment and when you don’t.

Over time, this will allow you to build power when you have been effective and identify the root cause of the breakdown when you are not effective.

How accountable are you? How accountable is your organization?

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