5 Keys to Mastering an Accountability Framework: Measure, Monitor and Manage

(or how we justify our daily routines as managers by ineffectively holding others accountable to results and avoiding the hard work of measuring activities)

How often do you tell your employees:

Do This, Don’t Do That, Why Did you, Why Didn’t You, ASAP, Get Back to Me Tomorrow?

We do this because we tell people to do something, and then we check on it to see if it gets done.

1.  We get stuck in a vicious cycle of checking up on people, to see if they did things, they know they should do anyway.

Let me tell you a story which will illustrate my point.

Imagine two brothers sharing a bedroom, we will call them Mike and Joe.  Every Saturday their father walks up to the boys and says “clean your room,” even though they already know to do this every Saturday.  Then Mike and Joe go clean their room, and their father checks on it to see if it gets done.  If it’s “clean,” he says nothing; if it is dirty, he yells at them to pick up some clothes or re-make the bed, or dust, or something.

The problem here is subconsciously the boys (and your employees) know they are going to get checked up on, so they never fully step-up and commit to the job.  It becomes a game of “how much can I get away with.”  And this doesn’t make the boys (or your employees) bad, it is human nature.  If one shirt out-of-place was okay today, maybe two is okay tomorrow, and so on and so on.  The problem is the subjective nature of defining “clean,” or defining a task’s completion as “satisfactory.”

Sound familiar?  It should.  That is how we manage employees.  We tell them to do something, then we check on it to see if it gets done, then we make a judgement of the quality of the work.

2.  What if your employees were held accountable to measurable activities which yielded results, as opposed to the result itself?

Now, back to our family.  Imagine now that the father walks in to the room and destroys it.  Up-ends the beds, dumps the drawers, etc.  But this time, he stays in the room and helps the boys put the room back together.  He teaches them how he wants it done, he shows them what it feels like to do the work.  At the end of the process, each boy has 6 measurable responsibilities which constitute a “clean room,” and needs to be done every Saturday

Next Saturday, no one is told to clean their room, the father might casually remind them with a statement like, “don’t forget about your room.”  Or he may say nothing at all.

Imagine if your employees had this clear of an understanding of what it meant to do their job?

3. Holding others accountable can be done without clouding your statements w/emotion or judgement.

This time when the father spot checks the room, Joe did all 6; but Mike only did 4.  So rather than yelling, and rather than punishing both boys, Mike is called into the room.

One simple question is asked: “Mike, did you complete all 6 activities?”  No emotion, no judgement, just a very simple “did you” or “didn’t you” question.

If the answer is Yes, the problem is one of teaching and understanding…and their is a solution for that…retraining.

If the answer is No, the problem is one of not executing…and their is a solution for that too.

What if you managed your employees this way?  If they did not meet expectations you could quickly identify if it is “can’t do” or “won’t do.”

“Can’t do” get retrained; “Won’t do” get in line or get out.  Sound simple?  Then why don’t we do it?  I’ll tell you why, because it is hard work.  Passing judgement on an end-result makes us feel empowered, as if we hold the keys to determining a “good job.”  Managing a process and letting the result speak for itself is harder, it makes us feel less important…but it yields a better result.

4. We tend to manage results because inspecting a product is easier for us to grasp than inspecting a process.

Lets get back to our family.  Now it is Saturday night and the family is sitting down to dinner.  At dinner, the father does not publicly criticize Mike for not cleaning his room.  Instead, he publicly praises Joe for doing a good job.  And here is the big key, lack of praise hurts more than public criticism.  Moreover, public praise is a greater motivator than a fear of punishment.

At work, do you criticise privately?  Do you praise publicly?

5.  Public Recognition is the key to engagement.  You must be genuine, you must do it in a manner in-line with your culture, and your subordinates must buy-in…or else this all falls flat.

Do you measure what you want done?  Do you monitor what you measure?  Do you manage based on measurable results?  Do you provide feedback and coaching?  Is it based on the managerial-circumstance the measurable results dictate?

Lets check in on our family one last time.  It’s next Saturday and no one is reminded about their room.  This time, both boys get praise at dinner.  Amazing how clear expectations, and fair management of results, free of emotions, can motivate others to act.

By the way, lets assume Joe reminds Mike to complete his 6 activities, and lets assume Joe even reminds Mike how a few of his 6 activities need to get done…did you just identify a leader?