Developing an Accountable Culture

In a recent blog, I outlined the four stages of cultural evolution that are often experienced by organizations that implement our best-of-breed Execution Management System, and in this blog, we address the development of an accountable culture. The four stages of evolution are:

  • Collaboration
  • Accountability
  • Execution
  • Innovation

As organizations develop a true Execution Management System, they naturally evolve through these four stages of cultural evolution, each with its own distinct characteristics. The speed and pace in which an organization transforms itself varies in response to many factors, including size, leadership, competitive rivalry within the industry, the threat of new entrants or market substitutes, the bargaining power of buyers and suppliers, internal constraints and capabilities, and external environmental conditions. All of these elements impact the speed at which you can develop an accountable culture.

From a Collaborative Culture to an Accountable Culture

According to the Oz Principle, “A culture that embraces full accountability is created when people – on a team, in a department, in a division, or in an entire company – take accountability to think and act in a manner necessary to achieve desired organizational results.”

Typically, an organization should take no more than three years to fully evolve into a culture of execution and thus begin the final transformation to a culture of innovation. However, we’ve seen organizations use our strategic planning sample and complete the journey in as little as six months. The decision of how fast to move is critical to successfully hardwiring a strategy development and execution management program into the organization’s framework.

For most organizations, developing a culture of collaboration develops naturally. As organizations create a common vision, executive and middle managers rally together in support of one or more long-term goals. Work plans are developed and a great amount of activity takes place, but the collaborative organization often mistakes activity for results. At this stage, there is very little effort to track tactical implementation against performance targets, and being busy is often an organizational substitute for being strategic. Oftentimes, a lot gets done, but not a lot is ever accomplished. The organization has a collaborative culture, but not an accountable culture.

Evolving to an Accountable Culture

Moving from a culture of collaboration to an accountable culture is a difficult shift for many organizations. Completing this transformation requires that the company not only work together as a team trying to achieve a common vision but also measure progress along the way. This requires organizational transparency so that all members of the team are able to monitor success and failure, see where implementation is lacking, and shift the focus from getting things done to getting results. Developing an accountable culture requires the following tools:

  • Organizational, departmental, and individual scorecards
  • Dashboards that track results over time
  • Objectives that are measurable and quantifiable
  • Strategies and tactics that support the objectives
  • Objectives, strategies, and tactics assigned to individual owners with firm due dates
  • Progress review meetings at least monthly

The key difference between organizations that are stuck in a culture of collaboration and those that have evolved to an accountable culture is that the former generally rewards performance on the amount of work the team produces and the latter on the amount of results the team achieves. Companies that are in the collaboration stage oftentimes mistake “being busy” for “being strategic.” They are very active and are doing a lot of “things,” but the “things” aren’t tied to measurable results. This can derail any market development strategy. As Roger Connor writes for the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, “The first step toward creating a culture of accountability is to define clear results within your organization.

Making the shift from a culture of collaboration to an accountable culture usually produces significant business results.


Meet the Author  Amanda Ferenczy

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