Tag Archives: work

Group Accountability?

“At first, this group dynamics stuff looked interesting, you know, everyone together under a team incentive bonus. It sounded exciting in the seminar, but in real life, this is painful,” Naomi explained. “The worst part, is we’re not getting any work done.”

“So, who is accountable?” I asked.

“I think everyone has to take a small part of the responsibility for the team not cooperating,” Naomi replied.

“No, I don’t mean who is responsible for the mess. I mean, who is accountable for the goal?” I insisted.

“The goal? We’re not even talking about the goal. We are just talking about cooperating better together, as a team.”

“Perhaps, that’s the problem,” I suggested. “You are spending so much time trying to cooperate as a group, that you forgot, we are trying to get some work done around here.

“Is it possible,” I continued, “that you have been misdirected to think more about shared fate and group dynamics than you have about your team. A team is not a group. A group may be bound together by shared fate, but a team is bound together by a goal. Stop thinking about group dynamics and start thinking about the goal. That’s why we are here in the first place.”

Leader or Manager? Argument Continues

From the Ask Tom mailbag – from a new subscriber in Brazil.

Your blog is fantastic! I´d like to know, what´s your opinion about the difference between managers and leaders?

I usually avoid this discussion. It’s an important question, but usually draws all kinds of fire that is counter-productive. Let’s see if I can make a go of it without getting my underwear wrapped around the axle.

A manager is a role, an organizational role, with specific authority and accountability. A manager is that person, in the organization, who is held accountable for the output of other people. It is a very specific role in an organization designed to accomplish work.

Leadership is a necessary trait of an effective manager.

We often, in casual conversation refer to leadership roles, but in that sense, it carries only vague (generic) accountability and authority. And leadership, as a trait, may be found in other roles outside the role of a manager. In addition to managerial leadership, there is also political leadership, parental leadership, spiritual leadership, scientific leadership, academic leadership. These are all roles in groups organized for purposes other than work.

So, a manager is a very specific role, with defined accountability and authority, in an organization whose purpose is work. Leadership is a necessary trait.

Referring to a leadership role, a leader has undefined accountability and authority and may exist in many types of groups, organized for different purposes.

Accounting – What’s the Level of Work?

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

We are working on the structure of our accounting department. We have a comprehensive list (spreadsheet) of ALL the tasks that need to be completed from daily transactions, to weekly flash reports, to monthly financial statements, to quarterly reports and annual compilation activities. But all this work keys around, seems to be performed by one individual, the accounting manager. We have two additional people in that department, but we need help figuring how to distribute the work to the right person.

This is an accounting department, but the same principle applies, no matter the discipline. The futile approach would ask “Can this person do this and can that person do that?” The result would be a helter-skelter mish-mash of who would be accountable for what. It might help, but you would remain in a state of disorganization. Especially where you have a spreadsheet of tasks, enough to go around for three people in your accounting department, you need a systematic way of figuring this out. This is not complicated.

You say you have a spreadsheet. As comb through the list of tasks, the central question is to identify the Level of Work. Add a column in your spreadsheet that identifies the Level of Work (LOW) for each task. Your Accounting Manager needs to self perform those tasks at S-III and delegate S-II and S-I tasks.

S-I – Clerical, transactional input from coded paperwork, proofing batch transactions for accuracy, printing reports and schedules. This would include A/P and A/R data entry, timesheet entry, including job cost transaction input for labor and materials. Matching paperwork from work orders and POs to invoices received from vendors. Collecting, sorting and filing required paperwork to support higher level decisions related to disbursements or billing activities. [Scope of task assignments range from (1) day to (1) week to (1) month with no task assignments longer than (3) months].

S-II – Coding paperwork (making decisions) for transactional input, coding job costs of materials and labor including split allocations according to formula or system criteria created by manager. Reconciliation of accounts to workpapers. Second level review of transaction input from S-I activities. Compilation activities of reports and schedules required for routine reports for accuracy, completeness according to a publishing schedule created by manager. [Scope of longest task assignments range from (3) months to (12) months].

S-III – Creation of systems for all accounting functions, including documentation of steps, checks and balances, reconciliation points, review steps, identification of thresholds, risk assessment, and operating parameters. Third level review (signature) of transaction schedules for execution of disbursements (cash), movement of cash and cash management. Forecasting and budgeting. Cross-functional work with departments and divisions to support the financial analysis required for operational decisions (bid profitability, bid qualifying, project budgets, work-in-process, milestone completions, payment apps, collections). [Scope of longest task assignment range from (12) to (24) months].

You can flesh these guidelines out to assist in identifying the Level of Work in each line of your spreadsheet. Once the Level of Work is defined, it is easy to determine what tasks the Accounting Manager must self-perform and what tasks can (should) be delegated to appropriate team members.

In Conflict with an Official Rule?

“Why is culture important?” I asked.

“It’s the way things are,” Ryan explained. “It’s that unwritten set of rules that governs our behavior, that determines the way we work together.”

“And why is it important?” I repeated.

“Every company has a culture, whether they like or not. It’s an undercurrent, sometimes silent, sometimes outspoken.”

“And if there is an official rule that is in conflict with a cultural (unwritten) rule, which wins?”

“Culture always wins. For better or worse, culture always wins.”