Self-regulating Accountability

Arky Ciancutti Accountability means taking responsibility for the result. Accountability is the acceptance of the possibility of blame, but Us versus Them is born in assigning blame elsewhere: "We can't be responsible because of…"

When a team gets mired in Us versus Them—blame thinking—it is far less able to look into itself to see whether and how its own members are part of the closure and commitment problem. But closure and commitment problems between functions are rarely one-sided.

In entrenched Us vs. Them thinking, the unwillingness or inability to see and admit one's shortcomings precludes self-correction. Non-accountability, then, in an Us vs. Them situation, is likely to breed more non-accountability.

In an Us versus Them environment Management is likely to get frustrated trying to force accountability because the obstacles to accountability are not "management" obstacles but rather stem from peoples' habits. Out of the resulting frustration Management is likely to use fear as a motivator: produce or else! (A hallmark of the Hierarcharical Organization.)

Understanding the potential negative consequences in this new, fear-laden environment, employees become even more hesitant to question bad decisions or to report what they think may be "bad news." In this way, communications become more and more selective and may eventually consist of what people think will gain approval, rather than what they think will be productive and help the organization.

Copyright April, 2004, Arky Ciancutti, M. D. and Thomas Steding, Ph.D. All rights, including rights of reproduction, distribution and intellectual property, are reserved.

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