Tag Archives: accountability

Inside the Function

“Take your most important internal function,” Pablo instructed. “In the beginning, likely will be operations. What is the work most closely related to producing the product or delivering the service? Especially in the beginning, that is mostly short-term work, 1 day to 3 months. Most production roles have a supervisor, with longer term goals and objectives, 3 months to 12 months. The supervisory role is to make sure production gets done, completely, on time, within spec.”

“So, every production person knows they have a supervisor?” I added.

“And, every supervisor knows they have a manager,” Pablo smiled. “This is the beginning of structure, nested goals and objectives related to successive roles (context), a production role, to a supervisory role to a managerial role.”

“The roles are distinguished by longer timespan goals and objectives?” I suggested.

“Yes, the roles are different in that way, but also in the way they relate to each other. Organizational structure begins with nested timespan goals, but also includes the way we define two things associated with those role relationships.”

“Accountability and authority?” I chimed in.

Pablo nodded. “In this working relationship between the team member and the supervisor, what is the accountability? What is the authority?”

My turn to show off. “The accountability on the part of the team member is to apply their full capability in pursuit of the goals and objectives agreed to by their supervisor, in short, to do their best. It is the accountability of the supervisor to create the working environment that makes those goals and objectives possible (probable). It is the accountability of the supervisor for output.”

“And, the authority?” Pablo prompted.

“The authority to make decisions and solve problems appropriate to the level of work in the task.”

Not Just Showing Up

“I’m still not following you. Showing up, making a presentation and getting the order, is not the work of a salesperson?” Brent protested.

“Those are valid activities, prescribed duties, but not the work,” I replied. “Tell me, on every sales call, what must be discovered about the prospective customer, before a sale can be made?”

“Well, you have to find out the customer’s need. If they don’t need it, they are not going to buy it, especially right now.”

“And what is the goal?”

“To write the order,” Brent shot back.

“By when?” I asked.

Brent stopped. “We have sort of a two-call closing process,” he finally concluded. “The salesperson needs to write the order by the end of the second call.”

“So, tell me, what are the problems that must be solved, what are the decisions that must be made by the salesperson to reach the goal by the end of the second sales call? Because that’s the work.”

What Are the Decisions?

“You mean they might not be doing their best, because they are not interested in the work?” Brent repeated.

“So, tell me what is it, about the work, that is not interesting?” I asked.

“Look, we are in sales. This is a struggling economy, supply chain issues. It’s easy to not get excited.”

“You are not answering the question. Tell me about the work,” I insisted.

“We show up to an appointment, make a presentation and ask for the business.”

“That’s a good start,” I nodded. “Those are the prescribed duties. Now tell me about the decisions your salespeople have to make when they are on these appointments.”

“I don’t understand,” Brent furrowed his brow.

“I think that’s the disconnect. You are right. Showing up and making a presentation is not very interesting. Of course, that is what you have trained them to do, but that is not the work of a salesperson.”

Who Can Change the Things That Matter?

“Our goal, their goal? What’s the difference?” Brent retorted.

“The difference is your relationship with the team, their relationship with you and your understanding of who is accountable,” I replied. “When they don’t meet your goal and you come down on them, how do you think they feel? What is their attitude toward you?”

“They know I am disappointed in them.”

“No, they get pissed at you.”

“Pissed at me?” Brent sat back. “I am not the one who is supposed to be selling, they are.”

“You are right. As the leader, I expect you to devote full attention to the management of this sales team. Which is why they are pissed at you.”

“I still don’t get it. Why are they upset with me?”

“Assuming they are doing their best, and you are still falling short of your goal, who is the only one who can hire more salespeople? Who is the only one who can coordinate different marketing? Who is the only one who change the assignment of leads? Who is the only one who can change their collateral literature? Who is the only one who can set selling margins?”

Brent was silent, then finally spoke, “That would be me.”

Whose Goal Is It?

“I know how it is affecting you,” I said. “How is it affecting the team?”

“Well, when they don’t meet the goal,” Brent explained, “I sit down with them, mostly one at a time and talk to them about doubling down their effort. They are just going to have to work harder. They can tell I am disappointed in them, so I am sure it makes them feel bad.”

“Why are you disappointed in them? Are they doing their best?” I asked.

“Yes,” Brent slowly nodded. “They are doing their best, but they are missing the goal.”

“Whose goal?”

“Well, the team goal. I am just trying to help them meet the team goal.”

“What do you think the team goal is?”

“Well, we measure it in revenue, average revenue per sale, and number of new clients. The goal this month, it is supposed to be our best month of the year, is 47 new clients.”

“The goal is 47 new clients? That’s good, but I want you to understand that is not the team’s goal.”

Missing Objectives

“I am a bit confused about what to do,” Brent explained. “All of our plans this year, all of our goals, we are just so far away from where we thought we would be. I am worried.”

“What do you think happened?” I asked.

“Well, we build to order. Every project is unique. We have all the resources we need, we have all the people, in fact, too many people, but our customers are not ordering according to forecast.”

“And, what is your role in all this?”

“I’m the sales manager,” Brent replied. “It’s my job to bring in the orders. And the sales team is working really hard, but just not making any headway.”

“How many sales people on your team?”

“Eight. I mean, maybe I should have hired more. I wonder if I am even capable of running this team in this market. They aren’t making sales the way they used to. We have our goals and they are just not meeting them.”

“How is that affecting the team? Not meeting your goal?” I followed up.

“Oh, they know I am not happy. I can feel my own tension. I try not to show it, but I am sure the team can tell things are not good.”

Who Has the Authority?

“I have to change. Me?” Vicki asked, not sure if she could believe her ears.

“I am going to hold you accountable for the results of your team,” I said. “What do you have to change?”

Vicki was not pleased. “Well, if you are going to hold me accountable for the results,” she stopped. “I have to pay attention.”

“Yes, you do. As a Manager, what do you have to pay attention to?”

“I may have to be more hands on,” Vicki replied.

“Yes,” I nodded.

“I mean if someone is out sick and you are still going to hold me accountable for the results of the team, then I might have to fill in.”

Only in an emergency. You are a Manager. I expect you to drive a forklift only in an emergency. Come on. You deal with statistical fluctuations of many elements all the time. What are you going to do?”

“Okay, so we are talking about cross training, maybe borrowing a member of another team, considering overtime. You know, 30 is really an arbitrary number. If we were short one day, we can likely make that up over the next couple of days, as long as there were no late ships.”

“I want you to think carefully. Are any of those decisions, cross-training, borrowing a member of another team or using overtime, within the authority of your team members? Can any one of them make those decisions?”

“No.” Vicki shook her head slowly.

“And yet, those are the decisions that produce the results. That’s why I hold you, as the Manager, accountable. What else has to change?”

Too Much Humidity

“It’s not your fault that your most valuable team member is out sick, but I will still hold you accountable for the results from your team. What has to change?” I repeated.

Vicki was still stumped.

“Vicki, let’s look at all the variables that could have an impact on production. You are focusing on the team’s manual assembly. Do they work at different rates on different days?”

“Well, yes, sometimes, they work better when there is loud music playing, awful loud music,” she replied.

“So, some days are up and some days are down. I call that a statistical fluctuation. What other elements could cause a statistical fluctuation?”

“Oh, well, there are a number of things. Sometimes our tooling or tools get worn and they just can’t do the job at the same rate, until we change them out. Sometimes our raw materials aren’t quite the same and we have to stop and make small adjustments to accommodate. Heck, sometimes, too much humidity can affect the setup time.”

“So, all of those things, including the manual assembly can create statistical fluctuations in production?” I noted, making a small list on a sheet of paper.

Vicki nodded her head. A smile crept across her face. “You are right. Those are the things that create havoc in my day.”

“And who is responsible for solving those problems and making decisions, making adjustments to build 30 units a day?” I was looking straight at Vicki. “What has to change?”

Your Fault My Fault

“You’ve talked about this before, but I want to make sure I understand it. We need to get 30 units out of this team every day, 15 in the morning and 15 in the afternoon. Right now, if they don’t make it, as their Manager, I get pissed. If it happens two days in a row, double-pissed,” Vicki stated flatly.

“And if that’s the way you see it, then, your system will create behaviors that don’t help,” I replied. “Thirty units a day is your goal. You are responsible for the results from your team. If I hold your team accountable for doing their best and I hold you, as their Manager, accountable for the results, what changes?”

“But what if they show up late for work, or take too many breaks, or slow walk the line? That’s not my fault. If they do that and I don’t reach my goal, how is that my fault?”

“You are still fighting it,” I responded. “If I hold you, as the Manager, accountable for the results of your team, what changes?”

Vicki was stumped. She drew a deep breath. “If you are going to hold me accountable, then I have to make sure my team all shows up for work. I have eight people and with all the cutbacks, it takes full effort to reach my goal.”

“And, what if, one day, your most valuable team member is out sick, truly sick, and I hold you accountable for the results from your team?”

“But if someone gets sick, it’s not my fault!”

“It is not your fault that someone got sick, but I will still hold you accountable for the results from the team. What has to change?”

A Shift in Accountability

“They don’t give me an early warning because if production is late, they know I will be upset and I will want to know why they failed to produce the desired result, I guess,” Vicki winced. “If I don’t find out about an order that’s late, I can’t get angry. At least until the customer calls. That’s when emotions flare up.”

“And how many of your customers don’t call when you are late?” I asked. “If you are using your customer as your QC system, is that where you really want to be?”

“I know, I know,” Vicki replied.

“So when you hold your team accountable for your result, as a system, it creates behavior that is not ideal. You don’t truly find out about production pacing until there is a visible breakdown. What can you shift to make that change?”

“You are suggesting that I am the one accountable for the team’s results?”

“More than a suggestion,” I replied.