Accountability is Forward Looking

“A body of men holding themselves accountable to nobody ought not to be trusted by anybody.” – Thomas Paine

Effective operating systems have a process for assigning tasks daily based on an evaluation of the business’ performance in the past 24 hours. David Mann has an effective method – a board that has days of the month across the top and team members down the side. This forms a grid, allowing assignments to be written on Post-it Notes and placed on the intersection of people and dates. This method promotes a healthy forward look at accountability. 

Backward Look at Accountability

Many feel their organizations don’t hold people accountable. In fact, many citizens would argue that others in society aren’t held accountable either. Wall Street needs to be held accountable for financial problems. Government should be held accountable for a failing economy. The prevailing thought here is: “There has been a problem and someone needs to pay. We are going to hunt down those responsible for these problems and hold them accountable.” While this use of accountability is not wrong in context, it promotes a negative feeling in business and leads many to believe that their co-workers or leaders are not held accountable.

Forward Look at Accountability

David Mann’s method of accountability looks to the future. As a problem arises from an analysis of business performance, a task is assigned to an individual. (A single person, not a group. If everyone is responsible, no one is responsible.) The task is most successful if it is actually written on the Post-it Note by the person given the assignment and placed on a future date as a commitment. Again, the person who wrote the task does this. The leader reserves the right to ask that the task be done earlier.

This method creates an environment that feels more like “We are counting on you to do this.” You are committing to complete the task, and therefore you are accountable for completing that task.

Every member of an organization has to complete tasks that will solve problems, improve the business, or restore safe quality flow of product in a timely manner. This is critical to running a successful business.

Help your organization make the shift from looking backwards at who was to blame to counting on each other to meet commitments in the future.

Learn more in Patrick’s book, “Facilitating Effective Change,” available online through Amazon and Barnes & Noble. He is also the founder of UTV Advisors, a business consulting firm based in Pittsburgh, PA.

Patrick Putorti

Patrick Putorti

Patrick Putorti

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