“Just to be clear,” Sarah wanted to know, “if communication is the symptom, but accountability and authority is the cause, what’s the fix?”
“You already told me that your communication seminar did not make any improvement. Is your answer embedded in your question?” I asked.
“We have to fix accountability and authority?” she angled her head to the side. This was not a rhetorical question.
“Let’s take the easy example,” I replied. “Two people who have to work together, but, neither is each other’s manager. Let’s take your Marketing Director and your Sales Director. In that working relationship, what is the accountability and what is the authority?”
“Well,” Sarah started. “They are not each other’s manager, so there is no accountability and no authority. They are professionals, they should each know what they are supposed to do.”
“Oh, really,” I nodded. “Would it be a good idea for marketing to coordinate with sales and for sales to coordinate with marketing?”
“Yes, I suppose,” Sarah concluded.
“If they are supposed to coordinate, but they don’t, what kind of problems emerge? And, does that look like a communication problem?”
“Yes, that is what we were trying to fix in the communication seminar,” Sarah smiled.
“But, it didn’t get fixed, because it wasn’t a communication problem, that was only the symptom. What you had was an accountability and authority issue. If it would be a good idea for them to coordinate, if the Marketing Director calls a meeting with the Sales Director, is the Sales Director accountable to attend?”
“I’m not exactly sure,” Sarah winced.
“You are not sure because you did not define their coordinating relationship. By virtue of the fact that the two are in a coordinating relationship, if one calls a meeting, the other is required to attend. Of course, they have to mutually schedule the meeting, but they are required to attend. Why are they required to attend?”
“I am still not sure,” Sarah winced twice.
“Because we said so,” I stated flatly. “By virtue of their coordinating relationship, they are required to attend. Further, they are required to do what?”
“Coordinate?” Sarah was catching on.
“Exactly,” I said. “Now that we have specifically defined the accountability in their relationship, do we have a communication problem?”