Personal & Team Accountability – Why it is hard to achieve!

“Accountability cannot exist without proper accounting practices; in other words, an absence of accounting means an absence of accountability” – Wikipedia entry on Accountability.

Just as financial accountability requires records of financial transactions; personal, team and organisational accountability requires records of what has been done to achieve goals.  Both financial accountability, and personal, team and organisational accountability requires progressive records in context, because people quickly forget what needs to happen or what has actually happened.
But what are the best accounting practices?  In simple terms they are the means to ensure that each person knows what they need to do, when and with whom.  Then after work has been completed, there is some way of knowing what has actually been done, when and by whom.

In general, people don’t like keeping financial records, but they do it because regulations, accounting practices, and management require them to do so.  The fact that financial accountability is practised contributes to good governance, value for money, reduced waste, and the availability of records needed to identify and understand where improvement can be achieved.
Often managers are reluctant to demand similar levels of personal and team accountability to financial accountability.  The governance and productivity benefits of increased personal accountability are significant, but the lack of workable tools and perceived cultural resistance often causes managers to forgo these benefits.

Another concern of managers is that they need to be more personally accountable for what they want teams and individuals to achieve.  This makes it easier for people at the working level to align what they are doing with management direction and then record and communicate what they are doing or have done.

For workable accountability throughout an organisation, distributed management practices that account for what people are actually doing need to be developed and sustained.  In particular, strategies, projects and tasks need to be linked to personal actions/To Do’s.  This linkage provides alignment and ensures that personal To Do’s are contributing to team and organisational goals.
Just as financial management software makes it easy to manage finances; task, team and time management software makes it easy to manage and sustain personal and team accountability.

With strong management support, one can facilitate and sustain personal and team accountability to significantly improve workplace governance and productivity.

Developing plans that are easy for all team members to understand and implement is not easy.  However without a workable plan, a lot of time and effort is wasted trying to achieve a task goal.

The core of team planning is to develop and complete a list of all the items/To Do’s that will achieve the task goal.  The list is usually developed in a team meeting and hopefully each team member then manages and does what they need to do.

Communications and more meetings are used to keep the master list up-to-date and to ensure that team members have completed their To Do’s.  This sounds easy, but when each team member has many tasks, the time and effort required to manually coordinate To Do’s is rarely available.

A simple Plan-on-a-Page has been shown to be an easy way to create and manage a team master list of To Do’s.  In addition to the list of To Do’s, the Plan-on-a-Page includes the plan context (task dates, goal, assumptions, risks, objectives), the person responsible for each To Do and other team members who need to assist, the stakeholders and resources.  This additional information makes the plan understandable and more likely to be implemented by team members as intended.

For larger plans, a simple task tree can be employed to show how a number of Plans-on-a-Page fit together.  The important point is that each Plan-on-a-Page is a complete standalone plan that a specific team can understand, own and implement.