There is a common misconception that accountability enforcement is about punishing people. However, accountability enforcement doesn’t have to be about punishing people. Proper accountability enforcement is about aligning people’s collective efforts to achieve a greater goal for an organization. In order to align people’s collective efforts, certain conditions need to be met for accountability enforcement to produce positive results.
Conditions necessary to enforce accountability:
1. Clearly defined goals
In order to hold people accountable, there has to be a goal they pursue. At the beginning of a month or a week, all team members need to have a goal they are working to achieve. This can example be a productivity goal. The goal must be defined in at least two levels. An overall goal, which shows collectively how much a company is expected to achieve. Individual or group goals, which shows how much work each person, group or shift is expected to achieve in order to collectively attain the overall business goal. Take a warehouse for example; you can have an overall productivity goal which dictates how fast orders need to be fulfilled. This goal can be broken down into individual productivity goals for order pickers, loaders, and replenishment personnel. This allows each group of warehouse workers to know how fast they need to operate without being a bottleneck to operations.
2. Operational visibility
In order to hold people accountable, leaders need to have visibility into their operational activities. Moreover, employees need to be able to readily see how much work they are accomplishing and where they stand in relation to their goal. This gives employees a chance to judge their performance and correct it if it falls short of expectations.
3. Informed stakeholders
People need to know how their contribution impacts the overall performance of the business before being held accountable to a goal. Moreover, people need to understand the impact of their actions on their performance for fair accountability enforcement. For example, if an employee knows how much 30 minutes of idling lowers their productivity, they are unlikely to slack. Accountability enforcement works best if people clearly understand the performance management system. It is necessary to ensure all team members understand the performance management system used to enforce accountability.
Accountability enforcement doesn’t have to be a witch hunt if you set up conditions that allow people to have better control of their performance. In the long run you get better results if you rely more on positive reinforcement other than negative consequences. Even if you have few stragglers, give them a couple of chances before you unleash negative consequences.