Today’s management literature seeks to hold entire organizations accountable. Take, for example, the public holding a corporation responsible for an oil spill (BP, anyone?). However, this does not translate to the accountability framework within the company, where multiple points of accountability simply cannot exist. For example, how well is that sign in the kitchen asking everyone to wash their own dishes working?
Current best practices are that there should be a single point of accountability as low as possible in the organization. Single points of accountability keep organizations effective and efficient. We also need to think about the lowest point of accountability, which keeps decision-making as close to the front line as possible to keep the organization nimble. Until now, there has been little guidance on determining exactly where this single point of accountability should sit, and that is where the Effective Point of Accountability®, developed by Effective Managers™ comes in. We have developed an approach that can help organizations ensure that work is delegated to the right person in the right position.
From the perspective of an organization’s Board of Directors, the CEO is accountable for everything. But of course, the CEO can’t possibly manage everything; thus he or she delegates responsibilities down the chain of command. The term Effective Point of Accountability® (EPA) refers to the lowest single point of accountability – the lowest position that has the capability to do that work. There’s a reason it’s referred to as an Effective point of accountability: if an EPA has been achieved, the delegation process has aligned a perfect match between three equally important factors:
- The individual: capability, skills and knowledge, at the right level within the organization;
- The complexity of the task; The accountability, authority and resourcing to accomplish the task.
- An EPA ensures the task has been delegated to an employee at the right level: not too high nor too low and that they have the tools, authority and know-how to succeed.
The approach helps to ensure that by delegating accountability as low as you can in the organization, without going so low as to assign it to employees who are incapable of succeeding at the task, the single point of accountability is as close as possible to where the work is being done. This gives the person who is accountable for delivering results the authority to make decisions that are consistent with delivering those results.
Effective Point of Accountability® in Action
To illustrate, let’s examine the task of managing the biweekly payroll for employees. This particular job is delegated down the chain of command from the CEO to the CFO to the Director of Payroll, who is equipped with the knowledge, experience, training and authority to accomplish this task. This is a well-planned EPA in action. It would be ineffective to delegate this task any lower, to say, a payroll clerk or an intern, who does not have the capability or the authority to get the job done. Likewise, the task not sufficiently complex to remain at the CFO’s level; that position needs to focus on the bigger financial picture rather than day-to-day occurrences. If the CFO were to do the work it may be well done, but the cost to the organization would be unnecessarily high.
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However, simply because the CEO has delegated task, this does not excuse him or her of all accountability. Should something go awry with the monthly payroll, the board will look to the CEO for answers; from their perspective, the CEO is accountable for this as well. The same can be said at all levels of management.
The Accountability and Authority Framework: A Necessary Link
The Effective Point of Accountability® links back to accountability and authority frameworks in the organization. More specifically, accountability needs to cascade down through the organization from the Board of Directors to the CEO through to middle management and front-line staff.
The CEO is accountable for ensuring that this overarching framework is in place and that accountability and authority is well understood; he or she must also ensure that the framework enables clarity of delegation so that personnel are aware of their accountabilities and that their authority leads to consistency of action within the organization. If the accountability and authority framework isn’t in place, the Effective Point of Accountability® cannot exist.
An EPA is cemented in the clear context, authority boundaries, and cross-functional support that the CEO implements. The advantage of an EPA is that it ensures efficiency and effectiveness for the specific task: the right employee will do the work and be held accountable for it. And this minimizes confusion, miscommunication and delays.
To learn more, watch the free recorded webinar on our YouTube channel. We address the subject in this article PLUS the key steps you can take improve accountability in your team and in your organization.
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Yes, accountability matters. Intuitively we know that when people are held to account performance is better. But what is accountability? How does an organization “become” accountable? Bottom line – how can you use accountability to improve the performance of your team and your organization?
We cover these questions and more in this Webinar using The Effective Point of Accountability®, developed using research-based and field-tested approaches.
In this Webinar you will learn:
1. What accountability is (and is not) and why it is important in organizations.
2. How you can assess the current state of accountability of managers in your organization.
3. The key elements of an accountability and authority framework and how you can put them to use immediately.
This Webinar will be of interest to all managers of managers in organizations, and will be of special interest to CEOs and Heads of HR.