Everything I Needed to Know
Accountability (The Multiplier)Providing accountability shows that your care enough about your mission and your people to get involved and make things happen. Accountability provides the backbone to the other five principles. Practicing accountability multiplies the effects of the other principles.
I am sure we have all had the opportunity to see a child in full tantrum mode and a parent or adult all to willing to give in to make the pain go away. Though the pain may go away temporarily, the child has been rewarded and now knows that a nuclear tantrum will get him/her what they want. And I am sure we have all stood in judgement of the situation knowing that we would and could do better. Without accountability, our people, our teams and our organizations will have its own form of tantrums.
Create the Right EnvironmentEffective accountability requires creating the right environment. Accountability works best when expectations are set and understood. Without the right expectations, applied accountability can demoralize a person, team or organization. For example, a fixed scope delivery date mandated by leadership without evaluation of team based estimate and planning creates the wrong type of expectations. Regardless of how the project turns out, the people basically did as they were told. Their accountability was to do as they were told.
In order to create the right type of expectations for accountability, following the first three principles is a great start. Defining a problem clearly gives people the clarity they need to execute which leads to clarity of ownership. Definition of the problem will always require an understanding of the customers and what their success will look like. And finally, practicing continuous improvement means that the bumps on the way must be examined and acted upon. Maintaining is not good enough.
Accountability Moves People and Teams from Apathy to EngagementLack of accountability parallels apathy and apathy is the beginning of the end for your team or organization.
Many people do not like applying accountability because it involves conflict and can be uncomfortable. Leadership requires one to lead through this. Though accountability can be hard, as leaders we must move from apathy to engagement. Applying accountability provides a strong upside. Most people will not like the initial parts of accountability but at the core, people need this honest feedback to grow and thrive. When done with respect and good will for the person, it will, in most cases, be received well and end positive. Either way, the person or team needs to respond to the feedback and chose to be in or out. You will avoid apathy.
A StoryI once had a senior architect on one of my teams. A talented and capable person. This person out executed just about everyone in the organization at the individual level. This person was frustrated with the results from other team members and wanted "justice". I explained, that as a senior level architect, you need to be a multiplier. Your job is to make those around you successful. This can be done through training, setting technical patterns/standards, design reviews, code reviews and process changes. I am more concerned about the overall team delivery results than the results of one (we must follow our delivery to our customers).
We went through the job description for a senior architect and used it to set expectations for the role. We agreed on some next areas of improvement and we agreed on how I and other leaders need to make changes to support this person in the senior architect role.
The road was difficult. This person exceeded at individual level execution, but had a hard time being the multiplier for the team (and as a side note, the team was technically capable and reasonable). We had many conflicts, discussions and coaching sessions.
The senior architect ends up leaving and that was tough. Myself and other leaders experienced some first hand on the job training for what we need for our organization in the way of a senior architect. I heard later that the senior architect that left appreciated the honesty and feedback and that was helpful in his new role (this person was not appreciative during the engagement). The leadership team did go on to hire several other architects and this experience gave each of these leaders a clearer vision on what the organization needs out of this role.
In the middle of this, I would be lying if I said I knew it would work out. All I knew is that not providing the accountability and direction would be harmful to the team and organization. We would be endorsing apathy. You have to thoughtfully lead to make positive changes. This requires action.
Some Things to Try
- Introduce agile to one or more of your projects. Self managed teams.
- Tighten up your execution and support of agile
- Attend iteration reviews
- Attend standups
- Verify that retrospectives are taking place and that actions items are being completed
- Examine your existing job description for your people
- Create job descriptions if you do not have them
- Use the job description to help set correct expectations with team members
- Help them succeed in their role
- Provide frequent feedback (focus on finding the positives and coach through the negatives)
- Year end reviews should not be surprise
- Look to create team based ownership. Allow for controlled opportunities so they can learn.
- Define and own the problem
- Follow your work to your customer(s)
- Practice continuous improvement
- Provide professional growth
- Build and practice teamwork
- Provide accountability