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Be Accountable for Accountability

Every job has its responsibilities, but that does not mean that every job also has people willing to take accountability for those responsibilities.   When incomplete tasks remain incomplete week to week, it stands to reason that no person feels that they are the one accountable for its completion.   Jessica Wharton uses this old example to illustrate how responsibilities can get shuffled from person to person:

This is a story of four people name Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody.   There was an important job to be done and Everybody was asked to do it.   Everybody was sure Somebody would do it.   Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it.   Somebody got angry about that because it was Everybody’s job.   Everybody thought Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it.   It ended that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done.

As comical as that old story is, it is equally annoying when the shifting of accountability happens in the work place.   The first step to avoiding this, as Wharton suggests, is to set expectations early on for your employees.   If they know exactly what each of them is responsible for completing, then none of them will shirk their duties”¦probably.   Wharton also reminds that setting expectations does not necessarily ensure their delivery.   Taking the time to get solid commitments from your team will make everyone accountable.

It is crucial that you follow up on the expectations you set for your employees.   Setting up meetings and getting feedback from the group will allow you to gauge if certain employees are not completing their tasks, what tasks need more time, and whether or not your expectations are realistic.   If certain team members fall behind again and again, Wharton suggests moving them off the project for a period of time.   This time can be used to offer the person more training, and it will allow you to decipher if the problem is with the task or the person completing it.

Overall, being consistent is the key to success.   When people know what is expected of them and they have deadlines to follow, it will be more difficult for someone to say “well I didn’t think I was supposed to be doing this.”   You will have a situation where Nobody blamed Anybody because Everybody did what Somebody held them accountable for.

About Anne Grybowski

Anne is a former staff writer for CAI's Accelerating IT Success, with a degree in Media Studies from Penn State University.

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