How to Improve Organizational Accountability with Goals & Controls
Organizational accountability entails ensuring that all employees, teams, and executives are following through on expectations. This involves holding everyone responsible for their role in achieving the company’s mission and goals, while adhering to its ethics, values, and culture. Yet 82% of managers feel they have little to no ability to hold their teams accountable. And less than half of executives are viewed as being accountable. This leaves much room for improvement.
Importantly, accountability isn’t equivalent to punishment, though many people have a negative association with the term. Strong accountability practices promote the desired behavior in a proactive way, rather than just reacting to problems with discipline. Positive reinforcement proves much more effective than punishment and greatly enhances culture. For example, when someone admits a mistake, colleagues should thank them for their honesty to encourage this behavior.
Let’s begin by discussing how to set goals and a solid time frame.
Setting an Accountability Timeline
Prioritize transparency by setting clear expectations from the beginning. Involve team members in setting expectations for their work, which will boost motivation to meet these targets.
When setting expectations, follow these key steps:
Conduct a SWOT analysis to identify main strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
Establish clear SMART goals, which are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. Set goals in alignment with opportunities you’ve identified, leveraging your strengths and avoiding significant threats where feasible. Focus on goals to work toward over the next year. Then, break them down into quarterly objectives that support each goal. Set 3–5 business objectives per quarter, suggests Adobe.
Align goals with organizational vision and values. Make sure your goals are consistent with your principles.
Work with employees to set team and personal goals and objectives matching the organizational ones. For instance, HR should set talent management goals driven by business goals.
Then, design systems that help you achieve them.
Implementing Effective Control Systems
The following systems and processes will keep you moving steadily toward the goals you’ve set.
Monitor progress through key performance indicators (KPIs). First, work to identify these KPIs. In regard to each quarterly objective, ask yourself, “What will success look like in this area?” Define the tangible outcomes that will show you’ve achieved the objective.
Utilize project management tools to increase visibility of progress and outcomes. These tools can help you assess progress status and achievement of KPIs and objectives. Recognize achievements, announcing small wins to your team. And strive to learn from your setbacks, discussing lessons learned.
Establish a system of regular check-ins and updates with your team. Hold group meetings and one-on-ones at routine times. Create clear communication and project workflow protocols, identifying roles and duties. Offer a project workflow chart as a quick-reference visual aid.
Next, let’s look at how to cultivate ownership of goals and systems for achieving them.
Build investment in your systems of accountability through the following steps:
Encourage open communication and feedback. Communication should flow in all directions; direct reports should feel empowered to speak up if they notice a problem, opportunity, or need for better support. And leaders should honestly address challenges and efforts to overcome them.
Promote a growth mindset and learn from setbacks. Discuss problems openly as a group when appropriate. Debrief hurdles, failures, and successes so the team can learn lessons from them. Have open and supportive dialogues with direct reports about challenges they encounter.
Recognize and reward individual and team achievements. Point out smaller wins that signal you’re making progress. Praise people for their contributions toward them.
Provide resources and support for goal achievement. Share learning resources tailored to each individual’s needs. Offer mentorship from people with the expertise they need to excel in their role.
Finally, make adjustments when needed, as most plans need to adapt as time goes on.
Adapting and Adjusting Goals and Controls
How will you know when to adapt, and what approach can you take?
Conduct periodic performance reviews. These reviews will help you assess individual effectiveness. Consider how they have personally contributed to team goals and stretched their own skills. Review team performance as well.
Identify areas for improvement and implement changes. Have you experienced any unforeseen hurdles? Are you achieving goals too quickly—a sign that you’ve set the bar too low? Enlist the whole team to devise solutions; each person brings a unique perspective and ideas. Announce changes clearly so everyone will adapt accordingly.
Ensure flexibility to accommodate changing circumstances. For instance, perhaps project roles need to adapt as certain KPIs shift. Make sure everyone has a flexible mindset so they’ll embrace necessary changes. When leadership models this mindset, they’ll instill an adaptive culture.
Read on for inspiration from real-world examples of organizational accountability in action.
Case Studies: Successful Examples of Organizational Accountability
When Hubert Joly became CEO of Best Buy, “How do you feel things went?” became his go-to phrase, Harvard Business Review writes. He would follow with, “What do you need from me?”—a great example of a CEO taking accountability for supporting the broader team. These questions fostered strong accountability at all levels. He would also ask, “What does it look like when we are at our best?” Through this question, he enlisted employees to help set standards and expectations.
Google fosters strong accountability as well. They make personal goals public knowledge, posting them in their employee directory under name and title. Both past and present goals are shared. Because colleagues are aware of their goals, employees may feel more driven to achieve them. Importantly, Google notes that if someone easily achieves all their objectives, they need to aim higher.
Through the best practices shared here, you’ll bolster accountability within your own teams. You’ll set goals, objectives, and a timeframe for attaining them. You’ll design strong systems for achieving them, cultivate ownership of these goals and systems, and encourage adaptability when needed. As you take these actions, you’ll see employees at all levels growing more fulfilled by their work in turn.
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About the Author:
About the Author:
As a Principal at Valesco, Angie Henson serves in key roles related to new investment origination, portfolio management, and investor relations. She directs the firm’s strategic acquisition planning and program management as acting head of research and business development operations since 2002. Angie holds a Bachelor of Science from Tarleton State University and a certificate in entrepreneurial studies from Southern Methodist University.
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