The Art of Managing Accountably


This post focuses on foundation aspects of ‘how to’ managing accountably. If you have not yet read my past post on “What does accountability actually mean? I suggest you follow the link and read about the thinking that underpins Hewsons approach to accountability before going through this post.

Make sure that you are on the same page – a clear definition on what’s required and expected. It makes sense that before you can agree to anything, you must be clear on what you are delegating and/or being asked to do. This clarity must include –

· The outcome/s that are to be produced e.g. putting together a team to submit a tender for a large infrastructure project and winning the tender.

· The expectations of relevant stakeholders e.g. meet all requirements of the request for quotation document outlining the customer’s requirements, submitting it to a standard that meets the requirements of your business (including any budget for the tender) that gives your business the best chance of being successful.

· The deadline for when it is due i.e. meeting the tender deadline and planning the process in order to meet that deadline.

Is there an agreement by all parties involved to do what is required and expected?

There must be an explicit agreement that the person to whom the task is delegated agrees to meet the requirements. Managers should ask the question – Do you agree to take this task on and meet the requirements outlined? Do not assume that you have agreement or even necessarily accept the first yes if you do not hear a commitment to be accountable.

The person being asked should have one of the following answers-

· Yes i.e. I agree to meet all requirements as specified and expected.

· Yes, with the following conditions and do you accept my conditions? e.g. Yes, but I need to add 2 people to my team for the next 6 months, do you accept?

· No i.e. I do not agree to meet all the requirements and expectations.

· No, but I have a counter offer e.g. No, but if you have another manager take over the following accountabilities I currently have for the next 12 months, I will agree.

I’ll try, let’s see what happens, I’ll give it my best shot or even worse, saying yes when you have no intention of meeting the task’s requirements is not an accountable response and is not an agreement! If this is a response you get, you must drill down to find out what are the concerns and effectively address those concerns (ignore them at your peril and all the extra work that is going to come your way when things do no work!)

Do the people have the competency & capacity to do what’s required?

Both the manager and the person being asked to be accountable must assess their ability to meet the requirements. The ‘gaps’ must be then addressed. They could be addressed by training, supervision, additional resources, other priorities reassessed, how the team is formulated etc.

Acknowledging the fallout of not being accountable – consequence.

Consequence is NOT punishment for non-performance. It is acknowledging the reality that there is a fallout of producing the outcomes or not producing the outcomes as outlined. If you do not address the fallout (consequence) you will not reinforce the source of success or correct the source of the failure. In large projects this assessment should happen over the life of the project and for smaller tasks, as a post mortem.

This might look like a lot of work and in many cases, yes, it will involve more work and a more structured approach. However, it will pay for itself many times over when you do not have to deal with the issues that arise when you do not manage accountably. Lost business, customer dissatisfaction, loss of organisational productivity when people do not meet agreements with others, lower engagement of employees, fighting fires, working longer hours, higher staff turnover and the list goes on. How much time and money do you spend mopping up the mess that is caused by people not honouring their agreements?