Why accountability is the key to strategy execution success

Posted On: 09 May 2017

Businessman looking off into the distance.

The strategy is solid, but the execution leaves something to be desired. Every business person has been in that situation at one point or another. How can you solve it? Where is the problem?

Rather than running back to the strategy board and rethinking the entire process, chances are it might be something far more simple: a failure to ensure that your employees are being held visibly accountable for their ownership of certain metrics.

Here’s what you need to know:

What is accountability?

Nearly every business owner will have some idea of what ‘accountability’ means. From a top-down perspective, it’s all about knowing which person is responsible for which KPI; who is driving the next stage of your strategy execution.

However, it’s also important to see what accountability means from the bottom up. For your employees, it should be seen as ‘ownership’. It amounts to the same practical thing—who is taking care of what part of the business—but it has certain connotations that the precise-but-sterile term ‘accountability’ doesn’t. To your employees it translates to how they are contributing to the overall success, how they are driving their business towards the future—essentially, which parts of the company are directly benefitting from their efforts.

It’s a powerful difference, and an important one to remember if you want to encourage accountability. It brings those boring metrics to life: it gives your workers a big reason to work towards their targeted KPI.

It’s time to gamify your business

Now we know what accountability is, both for you as the executive and for your workers. How does that play into the success of your strategy execution and, ultimately, the success of your enterprise?

It comes down to gamification—the act of treating your business departments similarly to the way you would treat a sports team. The example we like to use is that of a group of basketball players: put them on their own in a friendly match with nobody watching and nobody keeping score, and you might discover that all sense of cohesion goes out the window. The center is up front and the small forward is off in the distance, while the shooting guard is chatting with the spectators!

Now imagine if you brought in a referee, perhaps even a small crowd, and started taking score visibly. Do you think you would see a difference in the way that the basketball players are working? Of course you would—they would start playing to the positions they have been given, because now they are trying to actually win. To perform. The mere act of being observed and being held accountable for their actions is enough to drive them forward.

Don’t forget about visibility

Your business is no different. Merely holding people accountable is all well and good; it certainly helps them to know what piece of the business they own. But the real secret of using accountability to its fullest is making the accountability visible.

In our previous example, the accountability was vaguely there, with each basketball player knowing their position and their role, but it took a crowd of onlookers and a referee for them to start truly aiming for success within those roles. Your employees are much the same. If you’ve defined their roles correctly, they will know what they need to do to succeed. But if you’re not marking their successes (or failures), in achieving their given metrics, their ownership, then you might as well not have given them a metric to own in the first place.

People have to know the game they are playing. Hold them accountable for specific parts of the business, certain pieces or KPIs. But you have to ensure these metrics are visible as well. Accountability is key to strategy execution success—but it doesn’t mean much if your employees feel like the metrics their success is measured on are irrelevant.

Clarify roles through accountability. Make metrics come alive through visibility. Give your employees a part of the business to own, and make that ownership known to all, and you’ll quickly find that your team starts performing to a higher standard.

For more tips and tricks on how to make the most of your business execution, check out our free ebook below.

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Topics: Leadership, Business Strategy