Accountability is usually to blame when things aren’t going right. Teams are missing goals, not hitting metrics, pushing project deadlines, creating issues, and making mistakes. So how do you approach this blame-game properly?
Establishing accountability isn’t something that happens overnight. It’s a culture shift that requires time, effort, and will. People will be excited by the change, and some will be scared by it. As you may have already guessed, the people who are excited are the ones that should be on the team and the ones who are scared shouldn’t. The lack of accountability creates a veil that non-contributors can hide behind. They can coast by without actually being a valuable resource. In turn, this can frustrate your biggest contributors causing them to either fall in behind the veil or leave altogether.
So, let’s cover off on a few things that you’ll need to focus on to create an environment of accountability:
1. Clearly establish high-level responsibilities for everyone on the team
Everyone should know their job. The lack of accountability can often be traced back to people simply not understanding what’s expected of them. How am I supposed to deliver if I don’t know what I’m delivering? If there’s confusion about who owns what, conflict starts up and begins to impact productivity. Create position descriptions for every person on the team. Outline the key responsibilities for different timeframes. Hold them to those responsibilities regularly.
From the start, there is a lane for each person, and everyone understands their contribution to the overall goals of the team. They know who to turn to if they need help on a certain task and they know what tasks they should own.
2. Give everyone a number
Dr. Eliyahu Goldratt has a great story on this in his book The Goal. The team on the manufacturing floor of the plant had just set the record for most units produced in a shift and to brag to the next shift, they wrote this number on the floor. When the next shift came in, they weren’t about to let the other shift hold the record, so they produced even more units during their shift. They erased the number on the ground and wrote their new record.
The plant employees had a number to beat. They had a goal for the shift that everyone knew, and they all banded together as a team to achieve it.
Assigning a quantitative goal to a team or an individual contributor draws a line in the sand and says, if you hit this, you’re doing great. They can work back from that number and adjust all the inputs to make sure they are all adding up to the same goal.
3. Regularly measure
Now that you’ve set responsibilities and assigned quantitative goals, you’ll need to consistently measure them because what’s measured matters.
This doesn’t have to be an overcomplicated process, but it does need to check a couple boxes.
- Make sure the measurement is consistent. It could be a weekly meeting, a daily report, a status board on the shop floor that’s updated every morning. Whatever it is, it should be done consistently at the same time, at the same frequency, and in the same way.
- Make sure it’s transparent. Transparency creates a level of peer pressure to perform. If someone on the team is not performing, they may be happy hiding behind the veil, but they won’t be as happy being known as the person that doesn’t perform. This way it’s not only up to the manager to hold their team members accountable, but the team can also hold each other accountable.
Creating a culture of accountability is not an easy process. It requires time, effort, and discipline from the leadership team. You can almost always expect opposition from those who don’t want transparency, but the people around you who care about the success of the business will appreciate it.