This is an excerpt from a feature article on Accountability with Collaboration.

Is the price we pay for increased collaboration weakened accountability, reduced speed of action and general ineffectiveness?

This is a particularly pressing issue in complex global businesses; local decisions have to be made, actions taken, but we need local managers to take wider global or regional issues into account too. Equally well, we need local managers to buy into and implement decisions that are being driven globally. To lead these issues, we put in place global managers who try to engage and collaborate with local managers, who in turn may see such attempts as a remote intrusion from people who don’t understand their world. So who is accountable for what? Global leaders take global accountability for categories, product streams, technologies or functions. Country managers take accountability for local results. Neither can achieve their goals without buy-in and collaboration with the other and at the interfaces the trade-offs are between global consistency and local sense.

We need accountability with collaboration.

Therefore we have to combine accountability with collaboration. One becomes impossible without the other. The question is not around sharing the accountability; it is about you being accountable while working with a multi-disciplinary, often multi-cultural and multi-geographical team to deliver a result.

But why do I need to collaborate? If I’m accountable then I should be allowed to get on and make the thing happen, if I’m accountable then I need the authority and the resources to make it happen.

The complication is that your accountability will have an impact on others in different parts of the business. For example, if you are in charge of buying then it is obvious that your decisions and actions will hugely impact store sales. In fact, you will need others’ active support for your thing to happen. If you don’t, then your thing will be stillborn and you will be accountable for a failure.

Therefore we have to combine accountability with collaboration. One becomes impossible without the other. The question is not around sharing the accountability; it is about you being accountable while working with a multi-disciplinary, often multi-cultural and multi-geographical team to deliver a result.  In turn you will be invited to participate in the delivery of others’ accountabilities. If you only do what is required to deliver your own accountabilities you will soon find little co-operation from others. It is a reciprocal arrangement based on trust and mutual respect.

mark.goodridge@oecam.com