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Submitted by jeremykelly on



I am looking for specific suggestions and actions I may take in transforming a group to one of accountability. I apologize if their are other posts that are similar that I missed in my searches.
I recently joined a new division in our company as an IC. Upon joining I was surprised at how much individuals rely upon specific, tactical direction from the Leadership Team. (In this case, the “LT” is defined as the Sr. Director responsible for the division and his direct reports.) Here are a few paraphrased examples I have encountered:
“…however we are waiting for the leadership team to tell us what information they need from our customers.”
“I haven’t heard this information is important to the LT.”
Over the past few months I have attempted to understand what the driving factors are and have observed the following:

  • Some managers have a tendency to give very specific instructions to their teams.
  • Organizational structure also has some fairly junior team members as skips to the Sr. Director of the organization.
  • The majority of the organization is comprised of junior team members.

I am taking steps to change this culture, particularly across the group I consider my partners by talking about the division’s strategy as outlined in various communications, the outputs from our work together that supports the strategy, and the work items that I believe are necessary to accomplish the output. I unfortunately keep hitting a roadblock with individuals who feel the need to continually validate each of the work items with the LT after we have already reviewed our alignment and outputs previously with the LT.
What am I missing? How do I get individuals to feel empowered to make decisions without continual seeking permission and most importantly to take accountability for their actions, particularly when I am a very senior IC and not in their reporting chain?

stephenbooth_uk's picture

 ...or more to the point, how many tonnes of unpleasentness will land on you for doing stuff you shouldn't?

I disageee with ACTINOLITE that feedback is the answer as you have identified yourself as being an IC, not a manager.  The feedback model is for manager's giving feedback to their directs.  That is people who have both the responsibility to keep others on track and the authoprity (yup, that's role power; role power is like gravity, it may be the weakest of the forces but if you try to escape it you're liable to come crashing down and end up broken) to do something about it.  You could maybe use the Peer Feedback model or, if they are assigned to do work for you, the Project manager Feedback model.

If people are frequently refering decisions to a higher authority then there is probably a reason.  Maybe not a reason you think is a good reason, maybe not a reason you can see the logic behind and agree with, maybe be not even an objectively good reason but a reason never the less.  If you don't understand the reason then trying to change the culture will be difficult and dangerous, possibly terminal (companies with a culture of refering decisions to a higher level often, in my experience, also have strong role power dominance).  Where I work right now has a culture of refering decisions to the manager with the budget, it's their money you're spending so they have a right to decide what you're spending it on.  In others there were legal restrictions on who could make certain types of decision (licensed or registered practitioners), in some the restrictions were procedural (for example the only people who could send a letter or email to a customer was their account manager, anyone else had to get the email/letter approved by the account manager before sending as we were in a small (around 40 customers world wide and 3 suppliers) but very competative market and the only company that specialised in that market (and therefore the smallest) so we were very risk averse on anything that might hurt a relationship with a customer).  I've heard that some places senior managers just don't want to let go control but not experienced it myself.

What ever the reason you need to know it and understand it.  Once you do you have 3 choices:

  • Live with it.  Maybe you now agree with the reason or see that you're not going to be able to change things but are OK with the status quo.
  • Leave.  Maybe you see that you aren't going to be able to change things but disagree with the status quo, rather than tilting at windmills go find some other war to fight.
  • Try to change it.  Maybe you believe you can change it and can see a better way.  Come up with a business plan for selling and introducing this new operating model, discuss your ideas with people who can help you with the plan and implementing it, sell, sell sell.

I notice that you use the word 'accountability', dangerous word.  That might make it a hard sell for your peers and even managers.  Accountability is being in position for being held to account for the failure of something, a synonym for blame in pretty much every organisation (work, educational, social and otherwise) I've ever known.  Getting peope to take the blame for things that, they feel at least, are not sufficiently in their control is hard and possibly unethical.  No one likes to be a duck in a shooting gallery and likes even less the person taking pot shots at them.




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"Start with the customer and work backwards, not with the tools and work forwards" - James Womack