Team Member Contract for Accountability

From the Ask Tom mailbag – related to the post on Reprimands and Individual Accountability vs Accountability for Output.

Context:
Accountability for output travels down levels of work, with each manager accountable for the output of their team. Individual accountability travels up levels of work, with each individual accountable for bringing their full commitment and discretionary judgement to do their best.

Question:
The emphasis on the last comment was on Output, which is typically an end measure. Where is the emphasis on Input? The Input of each member of the team (the level of tasks and work) directly correlates to the Output measurement. What about having each be accountable to not only measure their daily input of work but also use those metrics to improve upon their own performance? That will impact everyone’s Output.

Response:
There is appropriate discretionary judgement at every level of work. Meaning, there is appropriate problem solving and decision making at every level of work. Most decisions relate to pace and quality. The work product related to pace and quality turns out to be output.

Let’s blow apart full commitment and discretionary judgement related to Elliott’s contract.

  1. The team member is accountable (individual accountability) to come to work everyday, with their full commitment, using their discretionary judgement, to do their best.
  2. If the team member’s output is behind schedule (pace), they should inform their manager ASAP.
  3. If the team member’s output is ahead of schedule (pace), they should inform their manager ASAP.
  4. If the team member’s output is below the quality standard (quality), they should inform their manager ASAP.
  5. If the team member’s output is above the quality standard (quality), they should inform their manager ASAP.
  6. If the team member is unable to do their best (that day), they should inform their manager ASAP.

Nick Forrest calls this feedback loop, “best advice.” Each team member is obligated to give their manager “best advice” related to their output.

With “best advice,” the manager is in a position, and has the authority to make adjustments to schedule, bring in more hands, authorize overtime, call the customer and delay the output, stop production to re-tool, add an inspection process, scrap out-of-spec production. The reason the manager is accountable for the output of the team is, the manager controls all the resources. The manager understands a larger context of the work, and has oversight. That comes with accountability for output.

One thought on “Team Member Contract for Accountability

  1. Ronald Kasner

    I think it’s important to distinguish between responsibility and accountability. In my opinion, individuals need to be “responsible” for their actions or behaviors re: process and systems. They need to approach those behaviors with a combination of belief and passion — they can do the work (i.e., are trained in their roles) and they want to do the work (i.e., are engaged in their roles). At the same time, individuals need to be “accountable” for their productivity and quality metrics (i.e., measures of their behavior) and results (i.e., measures of their output). From a people managers perspective, they need to ensure each team member is engaged (e.g., passionate/want) and trained (i.e., belief/can). Moreover, they need to actively monitor both the metrics and results of each member, so they can spot the gaps in performance and correct those gaps by fixing the “can” (a training issue) and/or the “want” (an engagement issue).

    At the end of the day, every person in the organization, whether individual or manager, has both responsibility for their behaviors and actions, and accountability for their metrics and results. In the case of the individual, those relate to “doing,” while in the case of the people manager, those relate to “ensuring.”

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