How to Build Stronger Accountability

The number one cause of poor strategy execution is the fact that managers do not understand their roles and decision rights.  The result is endless meetings and layers of approval, along with micromanaging, second-guessing, politics, and a weak connection between performance and rewards.  It breeds a non-responsive, bureaucratic culture; or is the result of such a culture.
Weak performers love this kind of culture because they don’t need to be accountable.  High performers can’t stand a culture like this.
It’s what Edward E. Whitacre, GM’s CEO, is up against at GM.  He recently told a group of his key executives to make the decisions about new car and truck plans instead of looking for his approval.
The top two reasons people aren’t held accountable:  1. They don’t know what they are accountable for, and 2. The organization doesn’t have an effective accountability process.
Other comments:

  • Accountabilities are results — NOT activities, skills, responsibilities, or behaviors.
  • People should be accountable for results and responsible for their actions.
  • Ask managers what overall results they are accountable for.  Chances are they will struggle to come up with an answer, and when they do start to answer they’ll talk about activities.
  • Most position descriptions end up being a list of 15-30 activities and are totally useless as performance planning, development planning, or performance evaluation tools.
  • Most managers don’t know how to hold people accountable.

Here’s what to do:

  1. Define the accountabilities for key positions.
  2. Implement an effective accountability process.
  3. Train or coach managers on how to use the process, and track results.
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