How do you solve the Accountability Problem?
It doesn’t matter how good the strategy is. If you have an accountability problem, the wheels are spinning.
You’re making lots of noise and expending lots of energy but you aren’t going anywhere.
I have written about accountability before. The accountability ladder is a tool that leaders can use to get their teams to reflect on where they are on the ladder.
But how do we use it most effectively?
I am going to explain below.
Most companies have a management meeting every month. These meetings usually last a couple of hours and involve the attendees putting together significant amounts of information to be shared with the leadership team.
The first question I ask the leadership teams I work with is, ‘Why do you have these meetings monthly? Is twelve a year the ‘right’ number or should you have more or less?
Most of the time, the team struggle to explain why the meetings take place on a monthly basis. The answer usually involves something along the lines of ‘we’ve always done it that way…’
I then talk to them about decision-making cycles and the importance of making decisions faster. This is a concept that I’ve written about here.
The key point is that if you have an accountability problem, your leaders need to consider increasing the pace of the decision-making cycle and creating opportunities to hold people to account.
So how do you do that?
Firstly – get rid of that monthly meeting. They take too much time to prepare for and they take too long to have. They’re expensive and unless they’re carefully managed tend to be low energy.
Replace it with a daily 15min stand-up brief around a performance centre.
This is what a performance centre looks like…
It’s a very simple tool that you build on a whiteboard.
But it makes an enormous difference to your culture of accountability. Let me explain how…
Every morning, at a pre-agreed time, the leader gets the team together around the board to talk about ‘what they’re going to do today’.
The team brief their leader on what they’re planning to do.
This forces the team members to plan in 8hr blocks. It gives the leader a much greater understanding of what the team are doing on a daily basis.
The following day at the same meeting, the leader asks the team ‘what did you do yesterday and what are you planning to do today?’
This isn’t designed to catch people out. It is designed to give the leader a greater understanding of how the team are using their time.
It also ensures that everything the team is working on contributes towards a key performance indicator and/or the delivery of the vision.
These are written at the top of the performance centre and ensure that the team are working only on activities that will make the vision a reality.
The accountability ladder can be placed on the board so that when a team member says something like,
‘I am waiting for someone to get back to me…’ or ‘I’ve sent them an email’
The leader can then challenge them by simply asking ‘where are you on the ladder of accountability?’
Are they waiting for things to happen or are they making things happen?
What you’re doing is shortening the planning cycle from a month to a day. Getting people to think about the short-term delivery makes it harder to defer activity to tomorrow because they’ve already committed to doing the task today and are going to have to update their leadership on the progress of it tomorrow.
Monthly meetings mean you talk about performance twelve times a year.
Daily briefs mean that you talk about performance daily – that’s over 250 times a year.
The impact is a significant increase in focus.
For the leaders, it makes it much easier to spot potential problems on the horizon before they become significant issues that may force the leader to get into ‘fire-fighting mode’.
If you’re getting a daily update on the progress of a project or a work stream, you will get a much earlier warning if things are not going to plan.
You’ll develop a sense for it. You can then provide resource or support where required to support that individual and help them to be successful.
You are in control. You can be proactive and put out the fires early before they become raging infernos that require all your attention and derail you from what you need to achieve.
These are just a few of the benefits of having a daily conversation around a performance centre.
A lack of accountability within an organisation is like a virus. It it’s not dealt with early, it starts to infect the rest of the organisation.
If you can’t get the right things done, you will struggle to execute your strategy.
Case Study – Major Automotive Manufacturer
We recently completed a project with a major automotive manufacturer. The remit was to improve the performance of the team and save time. We realised early on that there was a problem with accountability.
So we implemented the performance centre.
Very quickly, it became clear who was performing and who wasn’t.
The high performers loved it. Finally, they could demonstrate how much more they were getting done than their peers. The people who weren’t performing were exposed.
This social pressure alone had a significant impact.
Once we’d baselined the performance, we were able to measure how effective people were. Once we had this data, we could start to improve the performance by coaching the leadership.
In one week, we had two people away out of a team of ten. Initially the leader was nervous because fewer people were having to manage all the work…
But when the team delivered 55% more than they had in the previous week, they were delighted. No one worked any more hours than they had previously – they were just more effective in using their time.
This is ‘productivity leadership’.
It shouldn’t make sense. Surely more resource (people) means you can get more done.
This isn’t true.
The more people you add to a team, the less focus the leader can have on the individual performance, the more ‘low performers’ you can carry.
There becomes a point where accountability starts to decline. If ‘everyone is accountable’ – the reality is that no one is – tasks and actions fall between the gaps.
The performance centre and ladder of accountability are two tools that can help you prevent this from happening.
They also make it really easy to make ‘data based hiring decisions’ because you now know ‘how busy everyone really is’.
You’ve moved a hiring decision from a feeling to a fact making it much easier to prove to your leadership that you NEED more people to manage the workflow.
Accountability is critical to an organisation’s ability to ‘get things done’.
If this is a challenge for your organisation – feel free to get in touch using the contact page on the homepage.
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It is my intent to help leaders become more successful by giving them tools and techniques that I’ve used in the military and in the nuclear sector. If I can help to make a leader more effective by helping to develop their thinking – I am achieving my purpose!
Thanks for reading this far and Good Luck!