The Laws of Accountability

Accountability is a word that is thrown out very frequently these days and, maybe, correctly so.  However, I find that every persons version, or understanding of accountability is different.

Wikipedia compares it to responsiblity and lists several different types of accountability – talk about confusing.

Oxford Dictionary defines it as “the fact or condition of being accountable; responsibility”

A Project Manager I know defines it as “I will try my best”

Take your pick or make one up of your own, but what is clear is that when two people are talking on this topic, they are probably talking about different things and different standards.  The best colloquial definition that I have heard is “having my neck on the line…”.  Even that is open to interpretation.  Aaaarrrggghhh!!!!!

In my opinion, accountability, in professional terms, is not a deliverable.  It is an approach, an attitude, a culture; which is imbued into individuals and organizations that deliver.  It is very difficult to create a “law” around this; but, I decided to give it a shot anyways.  Without further ado, and with due apologies to the Late Sir Isaac Asimov, here goes.

  1. An accountable person may not harm the objective, or through inaction, allow the objective to come to harm
  2. An accountable person must drive the solution, including tracking and resolution of all dependencies that exist in achieving the objective
  3. An accountable person must escalate issues out of their control before they impact the achievability of the objective

These laws can’t create culture by themselves, but they can definitely stop answers that we are all too familiar with.  Also, these laws will not make the person aware of their accountability, or bring them in alignment with the objectives – those are external actions that must happen before these laws become applicable.

But, these laws (or something along these lines), can clear the communication, set the expectation, create a benchmark, etc – something that we try to do for all important things in our professional lives.  And accountability is something I consider really important.

From the 9-to-whatevers, looking for comments on the laws – critiques, suggestions, improvements, etc.  Maybe we can all get on the same page – does anybody want to take the accountability for that?