Organizational Excellence

People and Process Improvement

Posts Tagged ‘accountability

The Secret of Life

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A little Brain Dump is always a good way to start the work week. I feel better already.

Engagement and success are kissing cousins. Need one to have the other. To me, these few things make or break whether you are “successful” whatever success means to you. No matter if you’re talking about a relationship, being a parent, or being in any position from president / politician, from the big boss all the way to a factory worker or admin assistant to the assistant.

This is not nuclear physics. It won’t solve world hunger. I’ll take care of that this afternoon. But for now…add something to the Secret of Life short list and “Like” if you think this isn’t out of reach. If you don’t like this, I probably wouldn’t ‘like’ you!

  • Do what you know is right.
  • Do what’s expected of you. If you don’t know, ask. Ignorance is not an excuse.
  • Take time to consider the other person’s needs and feelings.
  • Find what you like to do, and were meant to do. Then, Just DO it!

Reward those people who deliver on these things. No matter whether a simple “thanks, you’re appreciated” or a little well-earned respect. Money sometimes works too, but those other things are free.

Get rid of or at least distance yourself from those who don’t deliver. They may be contagious and life’s too short. It may sound cold, but Darwin was right.

Add anything to the list?



Written by Craig

August 20, 2012 at 9:50 am

How Countable Are You?

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“Countability” was coined by John Maxwell in The 17 Indisputable Laws of Teamwork:

9. The Law of Countability. Teammates must be able to count on each other when it counts. Is your integrity unquestionable? Do you perform your work with excellence? Are you dedicated to the team’s success? Can people depend on you? Do your actions bring the team together or rip it apart?

My leader has asked the questions many times: what exactly is “accountability”? What does it mean to hold someone “accountable”?

It’s time to take a swipe at this snipe called accountability.

I am your leader, I am counting on you to make the best possible decisions within your area of responsibility. By the same token, you can count on me as your leader to clearly define what’s expected of you, and to make sure you have the information, skills and tools to deliver on those expectations. A good leader does not count on more than their followers can deliver. A good follower delivers no less than what they are capable of.

Don’t expect me to make decisions for you when you are capable of making the call yourself. That’s just abdicating your responsibility. And, no offense but I have more important things to do. If you make a decision to the best of your ability, within your defined area of countability, you will not be chastised if the decision turns out to be wrong. We need to figure out WHY it was a wrong call, and learn from it together.

We have more than enough definition and structure: work instructions, standard work, targets, ISO9001, leader certification, hourly associate performance expectations and assessments, salaried performance management, policies. All we need to do is execute consistently every day to the best of our ability. No exception to this is acceptable or justifiable on the leaders’ or followers’ part.

Our success hinges on clearly defined expectations and responsibilities and leaders supporting the team–providing what they need, enabling followers to get the job done. A leader cannot succeed without ensuring the success of their followers and having a team that is countable. That is a leader’s number one job.

A company cannot succeed without people who are countable, people who do what is expected of them, up and down the line. When people deliver the goods, they need to know it. When they fall short, they need to know it. And if they need help to pick things up a notch, they need to get it.

Countability applies to all levels of leaders and all followers. No rocket science, nothing more than fundamental chain-of-command.

How countable are you?

Written by Craig

July 2, 2012 at 9:42 am

The Formula-It Ain’t Rocket Science

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It should be easier than this…what happens to The Plan on the journey from the board room to the end of the year? Sure, nothing can be carved in stone and there are no guarantees. But still, where are the disconnects, what gets in the way of flawless execution of the plan?

The formula that follows is not rocket science. It’s fundamental management. But if you were to take a straw poll of your company to measure how well you are doing for each of the formula steps, how would you fare? I have a simple assessment in my pocket, if you dare…

The formula is based upon what people need to become and stay highly engaged and committed, highly satisfied high performers. Highly engaged people have bought into the company’s goals, and put forth the effort it takes to hit the mark. The formula also factors in those things the organization needs to achieve flawless execution: people on the same page, effectively cascaded and communicated goals. Finally, elements of change management are included that are essential for getting people comfortable with making the jump to the new world.

  1. Establish clear vision–line of sight to the top so people know what’s important and why, and understand their role in bringing home the organization’s top goals.
  2. Align: get on the same page, both publicly and privately. Leaders can’t be cowboys, their action plans and especially their daily actions must be an extension of the company’s top goals, and they must fully understand that connection and the importance of their role. It used to be called “company man”. But it’s simply being a team player.
  3. Set clear expectations so people know what to do, not just when it’s convenient but every time, every day. Constancy of purpose leads to consistency of effort and we need consistency. Deming was right–variation is Public Enemy #1.
  4. Ensure accountability to execute the plan. Chain of command must demand it. Expect execution, not when it’s convenient or only when there is 100% agreement, but every time.
  5. Provide support: (a) from leadership’s mentoring and modeling, which makes clarifying and reinforcing expectations much more credible; and (b) by providing systems and tools, information and skills needed to ensure the team can deliver on their accountabilities.
  6. Reinforce and follow-up by continuously verifying accountabilities are met and making sure the team has the tools they need to deliver the goods.
  7. Follow through. Make tough choices if there are still people who either can’t or won’t deliver on their accountabilities.

The Formula sounds heavy on Command and Control, which is more than a little out of character for me. But let’s go through the process from the top, slipping the John Everyman  hat back on…

If the vision is not compelling enough to me, then am I in the right job with the right company? Or, has the story just not been told well enough for me to buy in? I really do crave something a little more meaningful than just doing the same old stuff day in day out with little apparent purpose.

Don’t worry about how I’ll react if you lay out my expectations and accountabilities in no uncertain terms. I could stand the clarity, seriously–it beats the heck out of guessing what you expect me to do then being told later I guessed wrong.

Number 5 is my Ace in the Hole…that one is all on your shoulders. Like it or not, I watch you. And I tend to mirror your behavior and your attitude…it’s safer that way. “Do as I do” carries a lot of weight, can you handle it? As far as 5b goes, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that if you expect me to go out huntin’ grizz I’m going to get mauled if all you’re giving me is this worn out old slingshot. Don’t set me up to fail-it makes you look bad too.

It would be wise if you would check in now and then to make sure things are going according to plan. And if I’m not willing or able to deliver the goods even after you’ve made my expectations clear and made sure I have what I need to deliver, then we both have a problem.

And I deserve your solution.

Written by Craig

January 2, 2011 at 12:17 am

What’s Your Alignment Quotient?

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We are making a huge, dangerous assumption if we think that even a third of our people truly understand half of leadership’s strategic musings. Actually, can you be sure the individuals on the leadership team interpret your strategy the same way? If not, how can they execute?

Why is it so many mission statements never come down off the wall? Because they’re written in a foreign language. Same with strategy.

“An operational definition puts communicable meaning into a concept. An operational definition is one that people can do business with. An operational definition of safe, round, reliable, or any other characteristics must be communicable, with the same meaning to vendors, purchasers and the production workers. Same meaning, yesterday and today.” (W Edwards Deming)

Look inside and answer these questions with absolute honesty. Better yet, if your leadership team can openly discuss these kind of things, come to a group conclusion. The absolute ideal…have an objective outsider with assessment experience do an assessment of the front line troops. Then, listen and take action.

1. How widely understood is our company’s mission and / or vision and top strategy among our employees?

2. Do we have a published set of values or beliefs? How widely known are they? Do they make a difference?

3. What are the company’s macro metrics that are most communicated to the most people? How well are these macro metrics connected to the company’s top strategy? Can you easily tell which metric assesses which strategic element?

4. Do areas or departments have their own clear objectives that are consistent with / in support of the company’s mission / vision / strategy? How clear is the connection to top strategy?

5. Are local objectives measured? Can people impact their department’s metrics in their daily work? Are status updates provided real-time and areas of concern acted upon?

6. Do people know what is important about the job they do, and how they can move the numbers – how they really do make a difference?

Do any of your responses point toward an opportunity for improvement? So what are you doing just sitting there?

Written by Craig

May 6, 2009 at 2:44 pm


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(see ACCOUNT (+) ABILITY = RESULTS (?) for Part One)


This is not rocket science! A simple formula in which accountability is just one element:

Clear expectations +

Knowledge, skills and abilities +

Accountability +


= Results.


The Formula In Action


  1. Leaders set S.M.AR.T. expectations. Better yet, involve the do-ers in determining what needs to be done. Then, leaders provide the template through modeling, and performance management and coaching helps keeps people on track;
  2. Don’t set your people up for failure! Communication, Training and Development must provide knowledge, skills, and abilities people need, to have a realistic chance to deliver on their accountabilities;
  3. Accountability is nothing more than making sure people know what they are expected to do, and what the impacts are of their delivering the goods as expected, as well as the consequences of not doing so;
  4. Follow-up includes manager / subordinate communication, regular performance management updates, and coaching when necessary to get a person back on the right track;
  5. Results are realized in the form of goals being met, and in desired behaviors that have become routine — expectations, or norms;
  6. Adjust expectations, repeat process


IF there is involvement in goal setting of those accountable with achieving the goals (engagement), and a clear connection to the top (alignment) then the level of commitment to achieve the goals ramps up.


Effective performance management kicks in, avoiding “fails to meet expectations” at year-end by truly managing performance throughout the year. If there is a performance issue, clarifying expectations and coaching to improve performance comes into play at the time and place of need.


Engage > Align > Execute!



Written by Craig

April 22, 2009 at 7:33 am

Missions With Meaning

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At his blog for Recruitment Process Outsourcing, Ben S. had some interesting thoughts in a post titled Mission Critical. Ben’s proposition is that a company’s mission statement …  “should be used to define how the company treats its customers AND its employees.”


Good for the goose, good for the gander—Ben’s premise way oversimplified. Go read the whole thing and say HOWDY to Ben!


I added my 2c, below.


One of the fundamental issues with missions in general is their lack of legs-so often they are nothing but cool words on the wall. What better way to make a meaningful connection than to draft an internal mission consistent with the external mission, which is supposed to drive everything that happens in the business in the first place?


Whenever I’ve been in a position to have an influence on these things, I’ve championed cascading of the core mission: departments and even individuals draft their mission and objectives based on how they support the core mission. This ties in perfectly to performance management which, in theory, should be the executioner / enforcer of the mission. If I set my performance management deliverables based on how I support the core mission and that of my department, our focus is aligned top to bottom. I am then assessed based on how well I meet my deliverables, a.k.a. whether I do my part to achieve the company’s mission.


The mission all of a sudden has legs. And, the much-maligned performance management process has gained a bit of credibility as it directly supports execution of the core mission.


A last thought. When I see “we believe…” in mission statements, my overpowering inclination is to say “PROVE it!” Seriously, what is the operational definition of (insert belief here)? What does it look like in action? What is the expectation of me, to successfully support (insert belief)? How will I be held accountable?


What blows me away is that this is not by any stretch rocket science, yet it is so rare to find an organization that overtly and visibly lives by the intent of their mission, and the employees actually deliver the goods on their aligned accountabilities.

Written by Craig

April 8, 2009 at 10:35 am


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Without revealing anything incriminating…. what is the level of accountability you have seen where you work, or have worked in the past? What makes it high, what makes it low?


If you haven’t caught it yet, one of my key themes here is strategy execution. Without accountability, nothing happens. Or, the wrong things happen. What exactly is “accountability” relative to job performance and attaining company goals? These are two simple words where the whole is indeed much larger than the parts:


Account: a reason for a particular action or event; To account for: provide an explanation or justification; to make sure something is there. Can you account for these results, (or lack thereof)?

Ability: the quality of being able to do something. Having the capacity or capability to perform as expected.


Surely I’m not the only one who has stewed over the issue of “accountability”…. which is really an issue only when there is a lack of it. The easy translation of “lack of accountability” is someone not doing their job or not doing what is expected of them.


How can “lack of accountability” be an issue without heads rolling? A trickier question– how can good people not be accountable? Just as there are people who may choose to do as little as possible (notmyjob, notmyjob…), there are those with good intentions, and a solid desire to do the right thing. But, there can still be a lack of accountability.


If you know something is yours to do, and have all the tools at your disposal to do it, why would it not get done?

If Oatmeal, then Nike…..


I have some ideas on this. But I want to hold off and see what the general feeling is out there, without my muddying the waters ahead of time.


See “Accountability–Not Rocket Science” for more.


(If this is your first time visiting In Pursuit of Excellence, I hope you will take a couple of minutes to read the “ABOUT” page (see link at the top right). “About” describes the way Excellence is organized, mission and intent. It will help you find the topics and posts that are of the most interest to you)


Written by Craig

April 8, 2009 at 6:49 am