Where’s Management Accountability These Days? | RefinerLink

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Where’s Management Accountability These Days?

By Org Coach Thomas

Feb 10, 2014

Large organizations that have frequent job rotations often have a hard time pinning accountability on managers for decisions that take years to materialize. How do we properly incentivize correct behaviors in these types of systems?                  


How many times have we heard this line: “we’re currently fighting reliability issues because we cut maintenance costs a few years back to meet our budget”? 


If you work for an organization where the site managers today are the same ones that made decisions to cut costs years ago, then you are in the exception.  It’s more likely that your current managers face challenges created by their predecessors, and now have to mitigate past evils by crafting newer ones.  Most organizations have a self-propagating chain of wrong-doings that continuously cascade to new management crews.  This all becomes a very difficult machine to halt. 


How has this come to be, and what can we do to fix it?  The how is rather straight forward.  We have a continuous interest in developing leaders; however, we do not have the proper metrics in place to drive appropriate leadership behaviors. 


It’s not uncommon for managers to rotate assignments every 2 years acquire new skills.  Given the short learning curve in each position and immediate stewardship metrics that managers need to meet, one will often make near-term trade-offs to reach yearly objective.  Naturally, items such as routine maintenance and organization capability are the easiest items to sacrifice since effects of these decisions do not materialize immediately.


When the consequences of poor decisions emerge years later, incumbent leaders have immunity because they only inherited the result.  Everyone recognizes the long lag time required for such events to occur, so we look back on the predecessors to place accountability. However, if there have been multiple leadership rotations over the past 5 years, how do you identify the correct culprit?


This leads to the big question on how to fix these situations going forward.  I surely do not have the answer, but I’ll put out a proposal.  We need to build a mechanism for annual performance reviews to have a portion of the assessment based on lagging results from prior year decisions. 


An example of this would be:

  • 50% rating based in current year performance
  • 25% rating based on decisions made in past position
  • 25% rating based on decisions made in the position prior to past

While this will not be a perfect system, it drives accountability and can establish ownership around leadership decisions.  This system may be challenging to implement, but has significant potential to drive the right reward and discipline values.  This does not have to be used solely for negative re-enforcement, but can also provide due credit where it has been missed in the past. 


We all recognize that organizations can improve feedback quality to leader who run them.  Do these mechanisms fail to exist in companies today because of implementation difficulty or a lack of general accountability concerns?

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