Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Anecdotes and Accountability

Recently I moaned about journalists not asking enough questions, particularly "Why?". Yesterday I heard a reporter understand how to dig into the truth a bit more. She said, "There's a saying: 'the plural of anecdote is...not data.'" Yes! Just because you have two or three 'stories' doesn't mean those are indicative of the rest of the experience. That'd be like saying you have two or three customers who think your prices are too high, while you're enjoying revenue growth through acquiring more customers. Who do you listen to?

Does accountability only mean termination? In most organizations that foster accountability, it doesn't mean that people who are accountable are subject to punishment. Today, the Secretary of Health and Human Services was again under fire by Congress and one Senator, I believe, wanted to affirm her acceptance that she is accountable for the fiasco. He wanted her to resign. This is a small definition of accountability. A better definition of accountability can be described this way: "I am accountable. Therefore, I'm looking for problems or opportunities to improve. I take responsibility for them in such a way that I fix the problems or I notify (and persuade) others to get the problem fixed. I don't let the issue go until I know that it's resolved." Otherwise, if your definition requires only punishment, no one will want to be accountable, take responsibility. They will all look for others to blame, play the CYA game and your corporate culture will follow the dysfunctional spiral of death.

Accountability is as simple as following up with someone who is accountable, or if you're accountable, willing to have someone ask you how it's going. If I hold you accountable, I will ask if you've done what you said you would.

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