The Idea Dude

CONNECTING THE DOTS ONE AT A TIME

Monday, January 09, 2006

Accountability and choice...

One of my CEO friends used to be frustrated about his technology team not being accountable. I thought about it long and hard. People fail for many reasons. Without seeming to defend plain old poor performance (that is indefensible), the reasons why people and teams fail are pretty complex. Sometimes it's a result of setting goals and timelines that are not achievable in the first place but are blindly forced upon the company because of revenue and sales demands. Other times, it is the failure to recognize that in the real world bad things not in your control happen and they invariably will throw your plans in disarray. However, there are two common causes that fall squarely on management's shoulders.

Firstly, not making sure your intent is clear and that management is as transparent as possible is a surefire way of getting into trouble. Most technology companies run so fast they often forget to communicate intent (not commands) to their teams. Intent is important because it allows team to recover for wrong turns and dead-ends. It allows them to innovate and propose paths that you may not have thought of before. Note I use the word intent rather than vision because it is true on a tactical level. Tell your team what you want to achieve rather than how to achieve it. Then collectively decide on a gameplan that fits the current context. Finally make sure they repeat your intent to ensure that there is no ambiguity. The upside to this? You have a better chance that your team will see roadblocks and pitfalls and help you avoid them instead of acting like lemmings.

Where am I leading with this? it puts the ball squarely on everyone's court, simply put, everyone owns the problem. Then everyone has a choice to own it or to walk away. No recriminations of "I didn't know" or "you weren't clear" which usually leads to "it's not my fault". That leads me to the title of this blog. Accountability is not so much your ability in the past but in this fast moving world, it is what you are going to do in the future. If you're at the bottom of the ninth, it's pretty useless figuring who fumbled a play in the 3rd. All you need to care about is the next pitch and how you will react to it. It is after all your choice....

Secondly, make sure your team can actually execute on your intent. Very often we get frustrated with people not completing tasks as defined without realizing that we are to blame. We failed to recognize that these people didn't have the skillsets. Young teams fail because they haven't been around the block and so they really can't see the next sharp turn or the tree in the middle of the road. That is not their fault, it is our responsibility to help them fail fast and learn from their mistakes rather than emphasize failure as part of their personal character. It is management that must establish a balanced team of skill, wisdom and energy.

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