Accountability struggles

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Accountability struggles

STRUGGLEDuring a really interesting meeting this morning, it was said: You never hear about “accountability struggles”.  Power is highly desired, accountability not so.

This line articulated a pattern we see often in culture audits.  Manager’s hesitance to accept responsibility and accountability for decisions often lead to inertia and a “pass the buck” mentality that is detrimental to the productivity and morale of employees.  I wonder how much of this is caused by a general intolerance to failure in an organisation.  If a mistake can be potentially career limiting, a natural tendency would be to avoid making incorrect decisions. …

The context was around the potential use of distributed cognition, self-organisation and self-regulation to change the management paradigm in the organisation.  While there was agreement that these would add value to the organisation, the general tendency of managers wanting power, but not accountability was seen as an inhibitor.

In one of our projects aimed at improving performance management, a suggested probe that will be tried over the next few months is to evolve the existing performance management framework to include an optional “open slot” where employees can submit failures for evaluation.  Obviously it’s imperative that these be “failures with integrity” i.e. employees cannot simply submit any arbitrary mistakes. They’d also be required to discuss what they’ve learnt through the experience.   In this organisation, the objective of this probe is to attempt to find a measure for initiative. Whether it’ll work or not remains to be seen, but more thinking along these lines may be of great benefit to other organisations, to stimulate initiative, but also to change the way that failure is perceived. This in turn could spill over into decision-making and accountability.

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