Last week, we talked about the importance of creating organisations that are accountable by design – organisations that, by their very functioning, ensure that their employees demonstrate accountability. Our research highlighted 5 core drivers that are crucial in building accountability. In our last article, we discussed the first of these 5 drivers – consequences. We touched upon how having fair, well-defined consequences having both short term and long term value go a long way in encouraging accountable behaviour.
This week, we will move on to the second driver of accountability – process. Define the processes clearly for different parts of the work cycle. This leaves the employees little choice but to follow. This will ensure that the organization can get things done with the expected quality. Combine this with having the right consequences that we talked about last week to motivate people to stick by the process even more.
Processes, in this context, can be anything along the lines of what time to come into work; how often to provide status updates; what specifics to provide updates on; where and who to go to for approvals; what factors need to be kept in mind when approving work; how often to give feedback; how goals and metrics need to be set, to name a few.
Here are five ways to ensure that the processes in the organisation actively encourage employees to demonstrate accountability
The processes need to be well documented
More often than not, processes are just known. They are passed on by word of mouth, with most people not being aware of where and why it originated – or even what the actual process really is! This Chinese Whisper approach to organisational processes is likely to lead to confusion and subjectivity. This leaves a lot of room for excuses. In order to avoid all of this, the processes must be clearly documented, with all the possible use cases taken into account. This is a tedious task initially, but goes a longway in ensuring that everything moves according to plan.
Ensure that the processes are communicated
Clearly documenting the processes is one step towards building an accountable by design organisation, but it can’t stop there. These processes need to be clearly communicated to all employees. When first starting this activity, use prominent means like emails, the intranet, communicative flyers around the organisation and even quick meetings to get the word around. As people become more and more familiar with the processes, ensure that it is easily accessible. Use a written format so that employees can refer to it as and when required.
Execution is key
At the end of the day, what matters is the extent which the processes are followed. Ensure that managers and leads are well-versed with the processes, so that they can push for them to be followed. Have the right consequences in place to make sure there is sufficient motivation for employees to follow the processes. This applies even if it is the less simple path to take at times. Build in system driven prompts and reminders that make it difficult for employees to ignore the processes. Combined with clearly communicating the need for every process, these steps will go a long way in helping the employees stay encouraged to abide by them.
The processes must be uniformly applicable
Processes that are in place only for particular departments or specific team members reduce the likelihood that they will be followed. It may even lead to feelings of unfairness. As far as possible, try to ensure that the processes are uniformly applicable to everyone in the organisation. The more employees see their managers, their leads and even the top management following the processes, the more encouraged they will be to follow it themselves. If there is a need to have different processes in certain situations, fall back on clear documentation and communication. Transparency works wonders when encouraging accountable behaviour.
Build in agility
In a dynamic work environment, it is important to have processes that are flexible enough to keep up with the changing demands. The more rigid and outdated the processes seem, the higher the chances of employees side-stepping them. Make sure to keep updating the processes, along with taking into account the multiple possible use cases. Talk to employees across levels to understand their experiences. Ensure that the processes seem realistic and not like a top-down mandate. If people can easily determine what process applies to them, no matter what situation they are in; and if they can see the value of following the process, accountable behaviour is likely to be at an all time high.
As with the precious article, building an accountable by design organisation may seem a bit forced and artificial. After all, everyone wants employees who are naturally driven, passionate and committed to doing the best they can. Look at these drivers more as means of actively encouraging employees to behave accountably as opposed to forcing them to do so. It helps ensure that even on days when your employees are not their usual driven selves, the organisation makes it easier for them to make sure nothing slips.
Next week, we’ll move on to the more people related aspects of an accountable by design organisation – the leaders.