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Creating a Culture of Organizational Accountability

Article by 
Cascade Team
  —  Published 
November 3, 2022
June 7, 2023

An Overview of Organizational Accountability 

It's no secret, companies with high levels of organizational accountability produce far superior results to those who struggle to take ownership.

So, what exactly is organizational accountability and how can you create a culture that promotes it?

Organizational accountability occurs when all employees behave in a way that promotes the successful and timely completion of their responsibilities. Creating a culture of organizational accountability doesn't happen overnight though.

Attaining and maintaining this environment can be incredibly challenging. However, there are things you can do to address the problem.

In this article, we explain how to identify poor organizational accountability and the steps you can take to build a culture of accountability.

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Lack of organizational accountability

Like the flu, a lack of accountability throughout your organization can result in a number of symptoms that wear down your employees and ultimately affect your organization's ability to perform.

Fostering an environment that places little importance on accountability can lead to low morale in your employees, unclear priorities, a lack of trust, and ineffective execution.

Often, management won't even realize their organization has low levels of accountability until the symptoms are so prominent in their workforce that they can no longer ignore it.

If you're not sure whether your organization has a poor culture around accountability or not, look out for these telltale symptoms.

Low morale

When a lack of organizational accountability is present in a workforce, an employee's sense of purpose can diminish. This, in turn, ruins morale. Employees will begin to lack the motivation to do their job, which will eventually reflect in the quality of their work.

If accountability is strong, people know what they're working towards and why they're expending time and effort, resulting in them feeling a sense of purpose. This sense of purpose is what drives motivation and morale.

If you notice low morale in your workforce, this may be a symptom of poor accountability.

Lack of trust

Poor organizational accountability can also breed distrust and skepticism in your workforce. When projects and goals fail to have someone taking charge of their completion, deadlines are often missed, and employees lose trust and faith in each other.

A lack of trust can really stifle a team's ability to collaborate and communicate effectively. Once trust is lost, earning it back is incredibly challenging, and can have long-lasting impacts on the organization.

Unclear priorities

If you ask your employees what their departments' main priorities are, and they can't answer off the cuff, something's gone wrong. More often than not, what's gone wrong is the culture around organizational accountability.

If your people aren't clear on what they're accountable for, it will cause a lot of confusion around their priorities. How can you expect employees to achieve important results on time if they're not sure what the priorities are?

Ineffective execution

Do you notice that projects and objectives in your organization often fail? They either miss their deadline, or the outcome never eventuates? Ineffective execution of organizational strategy is a big problem across many businesses, but rarely is poor organizational accountability held responsible.

If no one feels responsible for an objective's completion, the chances are, very little effort is going to be invested in the activities required to achieve it, if any is invested at all. If you find the execution of strategy in your organization is poor, you might need to take a closer look at your culture of accountability.

Promoting a culture of organizational accountability

Creating and promoting a culture of organizational accountability starts with the leaders in an organization.

The actions and attitudes of an organization's leaders are what guide other employees as to what is acceptable and appropriate behavior. They have to walk the talk.

This alone, however, won't build a positive culture of organizational accountability. Organizations must create clear roles and responsibilities for their employees, empower their people to work autonomously, gain their people's commitment to accountability, and improve their evaluation and feedback channels.

Create clear roles and responsibilities

When the roles and responsibilities of your employees are ambiguous, there's very little chance they'll feel accountable for their results. People need to understand the boundaries of their role, and what they're responsible for achieving.

If they don't, excuses will be made and fingers will be pointed when results aren't achieved. In the planning phase of creating your organization's strategy, roles and responsibilities should be made clear and communicated to all employees. Each and every objective, project, and task should have at least one 'owner'.

Utilizing strategy software is a great way to ensure roles and responsibilities are clear in your organization. In our own strategy execution platform, Cascade, ownership of every project or objective is enforced by the system.

This person's name is then displayed against the project or objective throughout the system and on all reports, so there is no confusion over who's accountable.

Empower your people

Empowering your people to work independently and collaboratively is key to achieving a culture of organizational accountability. Giving your employees power and freedom to make decisions that impact their results, employees gain a stronger sense of accountability.

If you've told your employee they are responsible for the outcome of something, but you also tell them the actions they must follow to achieve that outcome, the employee will only feel accountable for following those actions, not the outcome.

When results aren't achieved, an organization's employees won't take accountability for the deviation in their results. Giving your employees the freedom to do things their way, will encourage them to take accountability for their results.

Gain commitment

It isn't enough to just communicate to your employees what they're responsible for, you need to gain commitment as well. Without commitment, you just have compliance or perhaps even resistance.

In order for your people to commit to their responsibilities, you need to include them in the planning process for the objectives, projects, and tasks that will achieve your organization's vision. Listen to their concerns and work with your employees through any barriers they perceive.

Improve evaluation and feedback in your organization

On top of having regular and consistent channels, a standardized structure can bring many advantages on top of accountability. Having a consistent structure around what progress is presented and how it is presented can save a lot of time.

Here at Cascade, our customer success managers have found clients who use our Dashboards feature to present a standardized dashboard of KPI progress each week were able to eliminate two other meetings which unnecessarily duplicated the content.

This saved the clients time and effort, and helped their teams focus on a single source of truth - we hope it can do the same for you too!

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