Four Essential Steps to Accountability

Article | Accountability Insights

by | Aug 18, 2009

The Ford Motor Company appears to have demonstrated an exceptional commitment to accountability in recent months—refusing government bailout money, improving management, cutting costs, reducing debt, raising new equity funds, building greener cars, and solving structural problems that had taken it to the edge of bankruptcy. Last quarter, the company posted a profit of over $2 billion, charting a course toward sustained annual profitability by the year 2011. Ford’s turnaround illustrates the transforming power of four essential Steps to Accountability—steps that are always present in organizations exemplifying true accountability.

In our first book, The Oz Principle, we identified these essential and timeless steps: See It, Own It, Solve It, and Do It. To “See It,” people must obtain and listen to the perspectives of others, whether they agree with them or not, preparing them to more readily acknowledge reality. To “Own It,” they need to make the connection between the circumstances they face and the actions they have already taken. “Solve It” entails personally and constantly asking the question: “What else can I do,” to obtain the desired results? And “Do It” requires people to follow through on their commitments, without blaming others for failure, by taking the necessary action to change the situation, make progress, and ultimately achieve the needed results.

Individuals, teams, or entire organizations that attempt to deny or deflect their accountability—often because they feel victimized by circumstances perceived to be “outside their control”—can get trapped in behavior and thinking that slows risk-taking, decision making and personal resourcefulness in solving problems. If they remain unaware or unconscious of reality, things only get worse, without anyone knowing why. Rather than face reality, they begin ignoring or pretending not to know about their accountability, denying their responsibility, blaming others for their predicament, citing confusion as a reason for inaction, asking others to tell them what to do, claiming that they can’t do it, or just waiting to see if things will miraculously improve.

Interestingly, Ford Motor Company has chosen to take accountability and climb the steps, that sometimes can appear quite steep, to achieving greater individual and organizational accountability—making the case that greater accountability really is the answer to improved productivity and profits.