The Single Point of Accountability

Assigning actions and following up is a key activity in the role of leadership.  It doesn’t require great skill beyond the commitment to do it.  One simple step that makes it easier is the concept of a single point of accountability.  It simply means, never assign responsibility for one task to two people, and remember you are assigning the responsibility not the work content.

Never assign responsibility for one task to two people.

It sounds simple, but when you assign a task to the maintenance department, or maybe to the HR team, or even to Bill and Susan, you have essentially not assigned it to anyone.   It may be rare, but if the task is not completed it is too easy for Bill to say Susan didn’t do it and for Susan to say she thought Bill was going to do it.  This becomes even worse when talking about a whole team or department.

We promote the idea of Who, will do What, by When.  The who is best assigned as one person, the what is a clear and binary task, and the when is a specific date and if necessary time.

Assign the responsibility not the work content

When a leader assigns someone the responsibility to complete a task they are assigning the responsibility not necessary the work content.  So a leader may say, “Rich I would like you to ensure we get the front sidewalk cleaned every morning there is snow.”  The leader is not necessarily asking Rich to sweep or shovel the front sidewalk.  She is simply assigning the responsibility for making sure it gets done to Rich.

If it snows and the front sidewalk is not cleared the leader will go directly to Rich and ask why.  Rich was the single point of accountability.

Help your leaders assign tasks to one single person with the understanding that person is responsible for making sure the work gets done, not necessarily doing it.



Jeff Swoyer

Jeff Swoyer

Jeff Swoyer

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