What is Accountability?

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

You talked about structure being the way we define working relationships related to accountability and authority. What is accountability? measuring expectations or consequences that can come with results?

Accountability is an agreed upon output for which we are held to account. It contains four parts –

  • Quantity of something, could be a quantity of one or quantity of many.
  • Quality standard, must meet some qualitative standard or measurement.
  • Time, either a specific deadline or a specified evaluation period.
  • Resources, within a set of limited resources or constraints.

The output must be agreed upon. I like formal agreement on important accountabilities, even signatures on a contract. For which we are held to account. Not for which we are held accountable, because I cannot hold anyone accountable for anything. But I can hold someone to account, meaning the person holds themselves accountable for the agreed upon output. I like the accounting part to be held in a regularly scheduled 1-1 meeting with the person’s manager.

Here is what it sounds like in a role description’s key area.

Prior to the end of (period), a report will be published counting all of the finished goods that meet our quality standards, including the quantity of rejected goods, within the constraints of our assembly line. That report will be reviewed monthly in a regularly scheduled 1-1 meeting with (role’s) manager.

Prior to the end of the project timeline, a report will be compiled and published of each of the project’s components related to the standards specified by the architect and its inspection (sign off) by the building inspector. That project report will be reviewed three times during the project, after mobilization, midway (50 percent) and post punch-list in a regularly scheduled project review meeting with the (role’s) manager.

One thought on “What is Accountability?

  1. Hugo J. Fontalvo

    Thank you, Tom your response hits the mark. It is very interesting the difference between accounting for something and being held accountable because it doesn’t become a blaming and punishing session.


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