May 6, 2010
Accountability.... It’s an important word and a critically important (business) fundamental that, whether you realize it or not, is getting a lot of air time right now. Unfortunately, it seems to be for all the wrong reasons - mostly as a result of a LACK of accountability. Here are just a few examples from my perspective:
The recent/ongoing economic downturn? A lack of accountability within the financial system for the quality and sustainability of their lending products and a lack of accountability at the CEO level for ensuring the long term profitability (and, in the case of the failed institutions - viability) of their companies.
The Toyota car debacle? A lack of accountability by the leaders of that organization to uphold their own quality standards and take timely corrective action steps to protect the safety of their customers – even if it meant telling the truth and risking their reputation in the eyes of the public.
One bright spot on the accountability front is (surprisingly) the efforts currently underway in the Gulf of Mexico by BP to try to fix the environmental disaster they have created. Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not a fan of big oil but, by taking accountability for the mess they have made, BP appears to be trying to aggressively solve the problem by implementing a creative solution that could help mitigate the depth of this tragedy.
Strangely enough, this last example gives us some insight into the powerful role of taking accountability (and action) on achieving business goals and objectives. In fact, building a culture of accountability is one of the building blocks of strategy execution success.
Let’s start by talking about what culture is. The dictionary definition for organizational culture goes something like this: An organization’s culture is a product of its behaviors, beliefs, and values and it is built into all supporting organizational processes and structure. As you can see, culture is foundational to any organization, including its functioning, primarily because it manifests itself through behaviors and actions. In addition, culture is woven into the fabric of the organization, making it pervasive throughout it.
Essentially, an organization’s culture is big, is everywhere, and is critically important.
There's no getting around it - culture is a powerful force within an organization. An organization’s culture can work positively or negatively for it. If you want your organization to BE a certain way, the best thing to do is to build that "way" into your organization’s culture.
Organizations that excel at strategy execution display a dedication to action and follow through and they build this "way of being" right into their culture. In fact, they go so far as to define, value, support, and reward this commitment to accomplishment as part of their regular way of doing things. That is, they build both the expectation of, and supporting infrastructures for, accountability at all levels of their organization right into the company. When these elements are integrated together just like this, they form the foundation of a culture of accountability.
For a culture of accountability to have an real impact on the business through strategy execution, the organization must actually LIVE this culture of accountability. This includes taking the time to link every action to a person who has responsibility for getting it done (right and on time) and has the resources, capabilities, and supports available to deliver on this responsibility. It also means assigning shared accountability to all members of the organization (from the front line to the C-suite) for ensuring that these actions and the right work get done, and that desired results are achieved. Shared accountability plays a critical role in strategy execution success because everyone has a role to play in seeing actions through, regardless of whether they have lead responsibilities or not.
Poor strategy execution is rampant in businesses today and it comes with huge financial and non-financial costs. The ultimate result is the failure to achieve key organizational performance goals. While building a culture of accountability is one of the keys to strategy execution excellence, no one is going to tell you that it is easy - it takes time and a great deal of effort to change an organization’s culture. However, with effort, dedication and discipline, your organization can make the required changes.
Want your organization to be a strategy execution success story? Begin building a culture of accountability TODAY! What will your first step be?