Are you Accountable or to Blame?
When we look at ensuring accountable over some sort of failour in our organisation, on many occasions we apportion blame instead. This is simple because there is a tendency to confuse accountability with blame.
So what is the difference between accountability and blame? Is there a method to diffuse blame before it begins to creep into our organizational culture?
When something serious goes wrong, and you understand that you are going to be "held accountable," how do you react? Do you think to yourself, "Can I help work out what when wrong?” Or do you try instread to totally invisible or hide the problem?
Accountability is a word that is quite often misused. Being accountable simple means being responsible for and answerable for an activity. If there is something that does not work out or perhaps goes wrong, those who are accountable are expected to answer for their involvement in whatever it was, because we require their understand or knowledge if we ever wish to prevent the same thing happening again and thus perfect our flawed systems.
Blamehowever is something quite different. To be blamed for something is to be made accountable in such a way that deserves disciple, censure, or some other penalty, either explicit or tacit.
Accountable does not mean "blame-able." Blame and Accountability differ in at least 4 ways.
1. Learning verses punishment
To gain an understanding of why or how a failure happens helps to prevent similar failures in the future. Those accountable at the time usually have useful information and so we value their participation in the learning process or the organization. This is most often in the form of retrospectives reviews.
If blame is going to be the goal, then real learning in the organisations activity usually stops after we have found the culprit. There is no longer a role for them in retrospective analysis. Once we tag them as “to blame,” their only role is usually to receive punishment. A strong indicator of blaming is usually fear of accountability.
2. Incidence of fear
If genuinely are seeking those accountable, then fear is not a factor. Those who are accountable do not have anything to fear unless actual dishonesty or negligence is involved In these cases failure is not the.
Fear of accountability is a strong indicator of blaming. Generally, if someone has a fear of being identified as "accountable" for a failure, it is with good reason — perhaps they committed some form of dishonesty, or maybe the "accountability" is actually blame.
3. Organisational chart altitude distribution
Those who are responsibile are accountable, and those who have the most responsibility are usually higher up on the organisational chart.
When we find those accountable at many levels of the organisational chart, we're more likely to be assigning accountability; when we find those accountable concentrated at the bottom of the organisational chart, chances are that we're assigning blame.
4. Acknowledging interdependence
Almost everything we do in an organisation is a group effort; not often is only one person fully responsible for any action or decision.
If we really want to find those accountable, the result is more likely to be a list — sometimes a long list. If we seek to blame, usually one person is enough to feed the beast.
Even if your culture is a no-blame culture, when you seek those who are accountable for a failure, you might encounter reactions based on past experiences of blame and punishment, rather than the accountability of the present. To maintain accountability based culture blame free, accept these reactions for what they are, and work to bring everyone into the present.