Role of accountability
For many, the recession is deemed to bring out the worst elements in society. However, there could be just as much evidence to support the view that recessions are best poised to bring forth the best in each of us individually, in business and as a country. In our case, my wish is for accountability!
In the midst of the turmoil that has besieged the little town of Ferguson, in the aftermath of the police shooting of a black teen, it has been suggested that the root of the problem is a severe lack of accountability by the police force in the United States, that apparently does not characterize any other professional organization.
The relationship between cause and effect is often never crystal clear, especially in the area of management style, alongside responsibility, communication, delegation, decision making and planning, and so forth, but a continuous lack of accountability on all sides across a range of scenarios in our country begs daily for attention.
My contemplation of accountability led to a brief analysis of some of the economic and social challenges that face our country, using accountability or a serious lack of it as the foundation of the rut in which we find ourselves, and an illustration of how improving accountability might significantly help to eliminate these challenges.
1. Delays in the delivery of quality health care: doctors, nurses and management are accountable to their patients with regards to service levels and also to the Government, and taxpayers are their financiers; lack of accountability allows any level of service to be provided
2. Delivery of poor service across the private and public sector: employees and their management must recognize that they are accountable to the customers and other stakeholders in the delivery of superior customer service. However, before employees can excel in this area, management must take full responsibility and hold themselves accountable for each success and more importantly each failure that arises, and should readily indicate this through acceptable levels of dialogue.
3. Poor financial reporting/management from statutory bodies/agencies: to whom much is given, much is expected. It is grossly unacceptable that agencies of Government or even departments of private companies are continually rewarded for their lack of timely reporting and financial stewardship with little or no consequence. Again, who is accountable to the taxpayers as the ultimately financiers from whom much is being extracted monthly and annually?
4. The CLICO debacle: this scandal has been riddled with no accountability at all levels, and while it appears very unlikely that anyone will ever be penalized or punished with the exception of policyholders, the CLICO management, regulators, regional governments and the judicial system must be held accountable not only for the origins of the crisis, but also for its subsequent handling.
These are just a fraction of the scenarios we have facing us as a nation today that require the face of accountability from those placed in the position to own it. At the time of publication the headlines will scream of retrenched workers demanding separation payments due since April, a contractor demanding justice in an ongoing saga, and more promises being made. Again, who is accountable to these persons?
And where are they? Who is holding all parties accountable?
Organizations operate on systems, and management executes its job daily via a series of independent and interconnected systems involving all stakeholders. It follows naturally therefore, that for true accountability to flourish, organizational systems and lines of reporting must be structured in a manner to facilitate this.
Across the public and indeed the private sector there are many managerial skills, traits and competences that remain lacking and arise due to many a flawed approach at the selection and appointment of managerial level staff. Organizations must accept that an individual’s ability to excel at their technical competence, professional skill or chosen vocation, does not signal a criteria for ascension to the corner office with a view.
Such practices have in large part contributed to the poor showings and demonstration of incompetence at the management level and lack of accountability that now readily characterizes our business and national landscape.
For accountability to thrive, there must clearly be open communication between all stakeholders, as this is the single most important manner in which accountability can be constantly demonstrated.
Accountability is not a one-way street in the context of management; senior management and organizational leaders must be accountable to their customers,
the public and all of its stakeholders (internal and external), but junior levels of staff must also appreciate that they must also be accountable to their managers and leaders, as only then will the full benefits of good management be realized.
Sadly, the road to accountability in this country appears blocked, often by a truck called management. We cannot continue to accept this as the status quo, for a lack of accountability ultimately suggests that our management structures are failing us again and again.