The Nine Categories 1. Accountability

Top symptoms and actions required

All too often, organisations fundamentally misunderstand the concept of “accountability” as meaning having someone to blame when things go wrong.

However, accountability is one of the most precious attributes found in a high-performing team.  It means that the team and its individual numbers are willing to take the risk of being wrong in their attempts to deliver quality outcomes for the company and other team members. 

The willingness of individuals and teams to take responsibility and accept accountability is a major objective in any modern team development programme. 

This cannot be achieved though in a cultural environment where individuals are blamed and even punished when their earnest attempts to deliver subsequently go wrong.  Should that become the norm, individuals will typically refuse to accept accountability in future and the team may become paralysed by inertia while waiting for others to accept responsibility for telling them what to do.

Teams with a willingness to accept accountability and readily demonstrate it are teams that win.  Teams where individuals dispute who is accountable and where accountability is seen as something to be avoided, at best “get by” or more commonly fail. 

Note that a willingness to accept accountability is critically important in a crisis situation. 

TeamLytica can assist organisations to accurately and scientifically measure the actual and latent capabilities that exist within a team. They can be compared against best-practice norms and actions applied to increase the delivery of the team’s potential. 

Symptoms of accountability challenges

To establish where there may be challenges in accountability requires an extensive survey and the collection of multiple data vectors which are then analysed against each other. 

However, some of the following symptoms may indicate that there are problems in terms of this domain within your team:

  • operational problems are left unattended and unresolved pending someone in authority making a decision.  This is even in situations where the issue is relatively minor and well within the competency of the team itself to deal with;
  • almost all operational decisions are routed through the team leader;
  • work variations that are only marginally outside normal day-to-day practices are not actioned but instead escalated;
  • individuals within the team are maintaining audit trails of the decisions of others that they have implemented, so that should something go wrong, they can prove it was not them who made the choice;
  • where the team leader is away, nobody seems willing to spontaneously step up to the plate and take accountability for decision-making;
  • whenever a problem is analysed after the event, nobody is comfortable with admitting that they were responsible for causing it or taking action to resolve it;
  • in extreme cases, individuals may be reluctant to give their name to external parties in a problem management scenario;
  • when problems arise, squabbling over responsibilities and who will resolve it become the norm rather than the occasional exception.

Attribution of cause

One of the key concepts of the TeamLytica approach is the need to look at data relating to your team in a holistic sense.  Looking at one relatively limited subset of the total picture can yield misleading and erroneous conclusions. 

Even so, it is possible to speculate about some typically-encountered causative factors when a team’s capability levels appear to be a challenge:

  • as touched on above, in some organisations, a “blame and shame” culture exists which positively discourages people from taking accountability. Organisations that confuse the concept of “accountability” with “blame” may find it difficult to roll decision-making down the organisation;
  • an over-zealous application of quality and audit control measures can, in some cases, unintentionally discourage decision-making at lower levels in the organisation;
  • significant numbers of individuals may feel that they have never received sufficient delegated authority to enable them to accept accountability ;
  • a variation on the above can arise when team members feel that there are other people better positioned and better rewarded than they are, to take enhanced accountability;
  • yet other individuals might believe that they have not had the training to enable them to accept accountability and they will focus instead on exclusively routine and mechanical operational tasks;
  • an encouragement to take accountability is not always efficiently communicated and encouraged within organisations in terms of a programme to empower the individual.

Possible remedial actions

Another principle of the TeamLytica approach is that without detailed analysis and information, applying “best-guess” remedial actions may be risky.  Even when they are well-intentioned, if they are not based upon an understanding of the real underlying cause, they run the risk of making the problem worse.

Keeping that caveat in mind, your organisation might find some of the following ideas useful:

  • blame and recrimination management cultures are now highly outdated.  However, they can still be found and an organisation may need to rigorously consider whether or not such a culture exists within its boundaries. If it does, positive steps need to be taken to turn away from it;
  • each individual within an organisation should have a personal development plan.  Elements of that need to be focused on increasing the individual’s confidence levels so that he or she is able to step forward and accept accountability when required;
  • enlightened organisations must move away from the view that accountability is an attribute of seniority.  Modern paradigms demand that accountability is rolled down the organisation;
  • training and development sessions need to be run to encourage acceptance of personal responsibility and accountability.  As part of that, individuals must be convinced that they are allowed to be wrong in certain situations.  The organisation must equally accept that there is an increased risk of  problems arising during a programme that involves a rolling down of accountability, until such time as it has progressed to become part of business-as-usual operational and cultural processes;
  • whilst 100% quality is always the target, individuals within teams must not be paralysed by feeling they are unable to make decisions due to putting quality objectives at risk;
  • an energetic and no-blame problem post mortem process should be implemented.  This is an important learning process and it may avoid problems occurring in future.  Equally importantly in an accountability context, it communicates that people who have accepted responsibility will not be criticised should something unforeseen go wrong;
  • career progression to be linked to the individual’s ability to demonstrate an acceptance of accountability and responsibility.     

TeamLytica can assist you by analysing very wide-ranging data and identifying the exact causes of perceived accountability issues.  This will allow the development of an action plan to remedy some of the issues identified.