In any strategic initiative, one of the opening stages is to identify the key stakeholders–individuals who will endorse and support the change sought by the project. Those key stakeholders are usually identified as high level executives (CEO, CAO, CTO, etc.), Vice Presidents, Department Directors and sometimes managers. Rarely, if ever, are the key stakeholders identified as the actual do-ers, individual contributors or the workforce who actually will carry out the work. And yet in fact, they are the most essential key stakeholders; they will be responsible for the success or failure of these initiatives.
Later, down the line, when the changes or new processes are implemented, I often hear complaints about “lack of accountability.” Strangely, nobody makes the connection that the real stakeholders were never asked for their input or ideas. As a former manager, I learned the hard way that if I didn’t bring my team in at the beginning of changes, the likelihood of success later decreased and if I did consult them, the likelihood increased. If you make people accountable at the beginning by inviting them into the process, the accountability is much more likely to be in place at the end.
Now, if you are a leader you may be asking, “Why can’t they just follow marching orders (a WW II term)? They are being paid good money to do the job.”
Hmmm…consider yourself in two situations:
- A meeting where the facilitator spends an hour giving information to the group. She or he may stop a time or two with “Questions?”, very top-down style.
- A meeting where the facilitator continually asks the group for their input, carefully listening to each person and taking notes and discussing issues raised and using the group as a brainstorming opportunity to problem-solve issues, very collaborative.
Which meeting are you more likely to be both engaged in and want to carry out the final “marching orders”? In our new tech-savvy collaborative young workforce, marching orders are as outdated as…well you get the idea.
“But,” you ask, “what if the initiatives are already completed and I need them to be followed and that isn’t happening?” There is a solution for that as well. Get your group together and analyze the new system and processes. What is working, what isn’t, and why? It doesn’t necessarily mean revamping but rather improving. This input can bring about many good outcomes–not only increased accountability and morale building but also improvements in the way you are operating.
Consider Intuit, a local Bay Area company that continually wins awards for “Best Place to Work” and is very successful with great products and a high level of satisfaction among employees.
Why? Among many other reasons, they involve their employees continually in brainstorming sessions to solve company issues. The employees are part of the company’s success and intellectual horsepower; they are accountable (and yes, they are an accounting software company – forgive the pun!). At Intuit, a well-known and accepted “Say-Do” mantra is part of their culture where people get measured for following through on what they say they are going to do. And employees like it!
Accountability begins at the beginning. Tap into your employees’ wealth of knowledge and expertise….and you will not only see the accountability grow, but you will also have a more satisfied workforce! Think of it not as relinquishing control but rather as broadening your power base.