“Accountability breeds response-ability.”
― Stephen R. Covey
With people being more and more critical of large organisations it is of great importance to drive accountability throughout your organisation. Leaders should set an example, and malpractices at the organisational level will almost certainly trickle down to the employees at an operational level.
In this blog, we will explore the importance and impact of accountability at both the organisational level and the operational level. Many companies have failed to take accountability for their mistakes, and this ultimately impacts and is impacted by the company’s operations.
CA (Corporate Accountability) is viewed as a legal obligation for organisations however, this doesn’t truly encapsulate the idea of accountability. CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) more closely links to the idea of accountability as it is voluntary, like accountability. There is no question that CA and CSR have an intrinsic link which is well documented in the relevant literature.
An example of a company that failed to take accountability and resorted to shady practices is Shell. Shell has had its fair share of controversies but more recently has been caught up in climate controversy regarding carbon credits in China. Shell has allegedly utilised a loophole in which a subsidiary of theirs has taken on the role of an agent in multiple small projects to avoid the rigour of checks on larger-scale projects. Smaller-scale projects were given some leniency to encourage farmers to reduce their methane output without causing financial strain. The lack of checks may have allowed Shell to wrongly offset CO2 emissions allowing them to greenwash the public and consumers and profit off this loophole.
Patagonia is widely considered a company that demonstrates a high level of CSR/accountability. Back in late 2018 Patagonia received a $10 million refund due to an ‘irresponsible’ tax cut which acted as a windfall for the oil and gas industry. Patagonia went on to donate this in support of regenerative organic agriculture alongside their ‘1% for the planet’ commitment where 1% of Patagonia’s sales go to domestic and international environmental groups. Patagonia is a highly successful company and research has been conducted that supports the theory that companies engaging in CSR have higher profit margins and valuation but lower risk. This is evidence that taking accountability doesn’t have to negatively impact your bottom line and if done genuinely and effectively this practice can lead to increased business performance.
In the operational context, accountability refers to the responsibility of individuals and teams to deliver on their commitments and take ownership of their actions. It involves being liable for the result of your work and ensuring tasks are completed to the best of your ability. Unlike organisational accountability, accountability at the operational level is more granular and focuses on the collective behaviours of teams and functions rather than the broader actions of the organisation that are usually determined by leadership and/or the shareholders.
A low level of accountability can lead to a plethora of issues including missed deadlines, poor quality work, low morale, and an overall decrease in effective productivity. If team members aren’t held accountable for their work, they may lose their sense of ownership and therefore be less invested in the outcome leading to poor-quality results.
In order to promote accountability clear expectations and goals for each team member must be established. This includes roles and responsibilities, setting deadlines, and providing frequent feedback on performance. It is also important to develop a transparent culture that promotes open communication where team members feel comfortable speaking up to raise concerns or ask for help.
A good example of the promotion of accountability is Zappos an online shoe retailer that is known to promote accountability among its employees. The company encourages employees to take ownership of their work by giving them autonomy over their roles and responsibilities. Zappos has also created a “culture book” that outlines the company’s core values and encourages employees to hold themselves accountable.
Corporate and operational accountability are interconnected, and it is important to have a holistic approach to drive accountability throughout the organisation. At the corporate level, leaders must set the tone for accountability by establishing clear expectations and goals. At the operational level, individual team members must take ownership of their work and be held accountable for their performance.
Fostering accountability is critical for both corporate and operational success. By implementing strategies to promote accountability at both levels, organisations can create a culture of responsibility that drives success. At the corporate level, leaders must set the tone for accountability by establishing clear expectations and goals. At the operational level, individual team members must take ownership of their work and be held accountable for their performance. By aligning corporate and operational accountability, organisations can create a culture of responsibility that drives success.
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