We often hear calls for accountability when we work on strategic planning with our client firms. A lack of accountability can creep insidiously into all facets of your business: marketing and business development, project management and profitability, and staff management. Its worst symptoms can take many forms:
- Underperforming principal
- Market leaders not meeting revenue and profit goals
- Excessive project write-offs
- Inattention to receivables
A lack of accountability drags down firm revenue, profit, and morale, and drives up overhead. Here are several recommendations for building stronger accountability into your firm:
- For isolated issues, identify the source of the problem. If it’s an individual, department, or office, agree on a list of expectations and measurable outcomes, publish the list to the appropriate people, identify a single person responsible for performance, monitor and follow up on progress frequently.
Remember that the consequences of accountability include positive outcomes, not just negative results, so link performance evaluations and bonuses to the achievement of established and agreed-upon goals.
- For firm-wide issues. Use your strategic plan to build accountability into your firm’s culture. As companies determine what the firm wants to become (its vision), and how they are going to address the key issues facing your firm (through strategies), they develop concrete goals along with action items specifying a person responsible for getting it done and a deadline for its completion. Publishing the action plans really builds accountability for implementing the plan.
- Set an example. Leaders and managers—all the way to the top, and especially at the top—set the tone for your firm. Evaluate your actions and the actions of those around you to make sure that you send a consistent message that everyone in your firm is responsible to someone for something. Walk the talk: by setting a good example, you demonstrate integrity if/when the time comes to get tough.
- Be transparent. Give everyone in your firm access to as much financial performance information as possible. Publishing information sends a message that your firm trusts its people and wants them to understand the business, and shows employees what’s working and what’s not.
If you have thoughts about this, we’d love to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org.