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How to create more accountability

Constant change requires seeing “accountability” differently

In high change environments, accountability exists when people see it as their job to create success regardless of what conditions the world throws their way. Where this mind set is in place, you see leaders holding themselves and their people to actively learning and adapting; deliberately experimenting, tracking results and adjusting to change, NOT “riding the horse we came in on” — clinging to the golden handcuffs of a prior success and rationalizing away failures.

When accountability = blame, that won't drive improvement

Most of the time people use the phrase “holding someone accountable” to mean fixing blame for a failure and meting out a punishment that befits the failure that the individual “caused.” Organizations that apply this form of accountability drive learning out by training people to hide failures and fight over ownership of perceived successes.

Re-purposing existing meetings and processes to foster true accountability

Simply put, shaping a climate of accountability is a key leadership task. A task that requires a social structure to maintain a forward focus so that leaders avoid falling into the trap of waiting until there is a visible failure to begin asking questions. The Action Review Cycle (ARC) provides an especially effective container for asking the sort of questions that shape such a culture. In their book “Execution,” Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan refer to established regular processes such as the Action Review Cycle as “social operating mechanisms.”

Ask yourself; “What already 'punctuates' the blur of activity in my work?” Typical examples are milestones and gates in projects, staff meetings, presentations to customers, monthly, quarterly or annual team meetings, project chartering, board meetings, employee surveys, annual reports.

A huge amount of time and energy goes into these processes, yet they are not normally seen as opportunities to shape the culture. So a lot of potential value is left on the table. The questions and interactions in these existing containers plays a huge role in shaping the culture whether it is intended or not. And that shaping will be either toward—or away from—accountability. Your choice! For instance, staff meetings are frequently (and often correctly) a target of complaints about wasted time, and typically focus on past results or on tactical punch lists. From the perspective of Emergent Learning, meetings done that way are wasted opportunities. The impact of re-purposing them is often substantial and cumulative.

Signet can be a thinking partner to help you make the shift happen

We can help you identify and think through how to best use events as containers for deliberately shaping an accountable and agile culture. Sometimes it is simple, such as making certain questions part of the regular agenda such as; “What did we learn this week?” One leader realized that the people who reported to him were not asking important questions, and began to simply ask the question “What are we neglecting to ask ourselves here?” in his regular review meetings. Over time, he trained them to scan before they came to the meeting. The right questions can lead teams to assess how well it understands what caused its results so that they can replicate or improve results going forward.

Signet helps strengthen existing social infrastructure or establish new forums as needed, and coaches leaders on the questions to ask in these forums to strengthen accountability for continuing improvement. Contact us

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