Organizations in which peers hold one another accountable perform better than those that rely on management oversight alone. Jospeh Grenny (The Peer Principle) and Patrick Lencioni’s (The Five Dysfunctions of a Team) make similar points – when we share the responsibility of holding people accountable we achieve greater results.
This conclusion comes as no surprise to those we honor this Memorial Day. Veterans of World War II and other conflicts recount numerous anecdotes of soldiers who fought because the people in their unit depended on them. Sure, they fought because of personal danger, and the military may argue that soldiers must follow orders, but the greatest generation was so great precisely because they held themselves and one another accountable.
Sounds great in theory but best to start with the goals; accountability comes second. Success in Business and on the Battlefield demands:
- Clear Objectives – How many times has your organization operated under the “Ready, Fire, Aim” plan? Without clearly aligning people in the business you are guaranteed to fail. Military leaders don’t order their troops to “go” without first pointing them in the desired direction.
- Coordinated Action – Clear lines of responsibility are as important as shared purposes. If our people don’t know what is expected of them, we should be able to predict lackluster outcomes. We can’t expect galvanized (or passionate) action if people flail about without a sense of how their efforts fit together.
- Recognition of the Consequences of Failure – Battlefields provide an inherent urgency and an amazing clarity of action. In business our success/failure has little to do with “loss of life” yet we still benefit from speed. Without speed we miss opportunities that our competitors exploit. The price of failure in business will never rival that in battle but having a deadline (a threat, if you will) helps all of us focus on important aspects.
The pivot point is that companies must first be aligned around common goals. Without a common foundation, shared accountability becomes an exercise in finger pointing… hope that thing’s not loaded!