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The Accountability/Alignment Process: Three Steps to an Accountable Organization

The Accountability/Alignment Process: Three Steps to an Accountable Organization

Generating genuine accountability and functional alignment into your workplace cannot be left to vague ambitions and abstract statements. Well designed processes must be embedded into the heart of an organization to ensure that each employee's goals and expectations are clearly defined and that the resources to bring about specific measurable results are in place.

In our recent book, Aligned Like a Laser, we outline an effective three step process for ensuring managers and employees are mutually accountable and that the entire organization is aligned toward specific goals.

The Accountability/Alignment process has three fundamental steps:

(1) Accountability (2) Alignment (3) and Achievement

These steps shape the essential foundation for the practice of accountability and workplace alignment.

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Step 1: Accountability

Accountability is articulated through a document called an Accountability Agreement. This document forms a context for success by making each individual's contribution visible within the organization. It is a brief ? 2 to 3 page ? overview of the outcomes that an individual is promising to deliver which also outlines the support and resources that he or she needs from others in order to achieve these results.

Seven Elements of an Accountability Agreement:

(1) Business Focus Statement

(2) Operational Accountabilities

(3) Leadership Accountabilities

(4) Support Requirements

(5) Goals

(6) Sustainment Plan

(7) Positive Consequences

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Step 2: Alignment

Alignment requires a constructive business dialogue focused on end results. After completing Accountability Agreements, a workgroup negotiates responsibilities and forms an understanding of each member's contribution to the team.

The alignment process involves resolving gaps and overlaps in the team's accountabilities, and it ensures that each member agrees to provide the critical support needed to fulfil the team's purpose.

Alignment clarifies the practice of accountability; it focuses energy and eliminates distractions across the entire organization. It also provides a renewed sense of confidence and interdependence based on a publicly declared promise to deliver business results.

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Step 3: Achievement

The Accountability/Alignment process brings immediate results, but lasting achievement is gained through maintaining the discipline fostered by the process. There are several ways to ensure that Accountability/Alignment brings long term achievement.

Keep Accountability Agreements Visible
Post progress reports in prominent locations. Provide a forum for people to comment on progress.

Put Accountability Agreements Online
A company's intranet can provide easy access to all Accountability Agreements. Or, use our Align Online tool. Visit www.alignonline.com for more information.

Model Accountability
Leaders must set an example and share Accountability Agreements widely. Also, references should be made to Accountability Agreements in reports and presentations.

Synchronize the Process
Link accountability to related processes such as goal setting and performance management. Use accountability to prevent duplication of effort.

Ensure Business Results
Accountability is not about shifting blame; it embraces a process of mutual support and learning to ensure that goals are achieved. Accountability Agreements can be modified according to past lessons and to better adhere to new circumstances.

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The Accountable Workplace
The alignment process legitimizes raising difficult conversations, creates a positive context for resolving disagreements, and builds an environment of mutual support. Improving an organization can be a gamble, yet successful organizational effectiveness initiatives have proven to be invaluable relative to the time invested. The Accountability/Alignment process can revitalize a workplace, focus attention on shared goals, and sustain a new way of working across an organization.

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Shaun Murphy, Ph.D. and Bruce Klatt, M.A. are senior partners in Murphy Klatt Consulting and authors of Aligned Like a Laser (2004) and Accountability: Getting a Grip on Results (1997). They are internationally recognized experts in the field of Organizational Effectiveness whose books have sold over 100,000 copies internationally. For more information please go to http://www.murphyklatt.com or try their online Accountability Alignment tool at http://www.alignonline.com.

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