Culture Change and Accountability

Article | Accountability Insights

by | Oct 12, 2011

When did you last hear something similar to this: “Culture change is really hard and very slow”? Is it true? Without high levels of accountability throughout the organization, the answer is “Yes.” When accountability permeates the organization, the answer is “No.” In short, greater accountability accelerates and facilitates culture change.

Organizations today suffer from a crisis of accountability, which makes culture change difficult and prolonged. To deal with the crisis, leaders often employ outdated “Command and control” structures or methodologies to drive accountability throughout their organizations. Simply stated, they expect accountability but don’t engage it.

The only way to engage people in taking greater accountability is to clearly paint a picture of accountable and non-accountable behavior and thinking, including the consequences of each. Here’s our picture: “A clear line separates accountable and non-accountable behavior and thinking. Above The Line are the Steps To Accountability, to See It, Own It, Solve It and Do It. Below that line is the all-too familiar Blame Game or Victim Cycle. We have found that people who consistently adhere to the Steps To Accountability almost always think and act in an accountable manner. By the same token, people who fail to take these steps get stuck in the Blame Game, feeling victimized by circumstances that seem outside their control. People who are habitually Below The Line do not get results. Instead, they grow increasingly frustrated and paralyzed in their progress. They almost never feel fulfilled by their work. Their organizations, their teams and their own careers falter. People who live Above The Line accept the fact that they are, and must be, part of the solution. They focus on what they can do, rather than on what they cannot do to get results. They look for creative ways to deal with obstacles, which they view as opportunities to make great things happen rather than as excuses for failure. Above the Line, people move forward, get results, and feel satisfied in their work. They, their teams and their organizations prosper.” (Source: Change the Culture, Change the Game)

After painting the picture of accountable and non-accountable behavior and thinking, invite your people to make a personal choice: to live Above The Line or Below The Line. Of course, be sure to point out that it’s not wrong to go Below The Line. It’s human nature. We all do it, more often than we realize. However, if we remain stuck Below The Line, we become more focused on what we cannot do than on what we can do, setting our sights on the obstacles we face, rather than on the actions we can take to get past those obstacles and achieve the results we want. When people in organizations move Above The Line, they can more quickly and easily change the culture to change the game—and thereby deliver sustainable results in an ever-changing business environment.

To learn more about how greater accountability can speed up and strengthen culture change in your organization, we invite you to join the Accountability Community by visiting

Above The Line, Below The Line, Steps To Accountability, See It, Own It, Solve It, Do It, Change the Culture, Change the Game, and Accountability Community, are all registered trademarks of Partners In Leadership Inc.