November 2008 - pearcemayfield

Monthly Archives: November 2008

“Accountable” – threatening or reassuring? published on 10/11/2008 by James

“Accountable” – threatening or reassuring? Is the word ‘accountability’ something you find threatening? For example, will you be ultimately accountable for the success or failure of the project you are about to commission? This topic of accountability has been a hot one in the British Civil Service where until recently. The culture of ‘accountability by

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Is the word ‘accountability’ something you find threatening? For example, will you be ultimately accountable for the success or failure of the project you are about to commission?

This topic of accountability has been a hot one in the British Civil Service where until recently. The culture of ‘accountability by committee’ meant that no one individual was willing to carry the can if things went wrong. This kind of unhelpful anonymity by individual senior government officials was blamed by some for the poor performance in actually implementing much of government policy. In fact, the Gershon Report specifically addressed this point and recommended that any change investment had to have an identifiable person to take ultimate accountability – the ‘Senior Responsible Owner’ in PRINCE2 and MSP.

Well, I was with a client recently from the not-for-profit sector. Whilst waiting or my slot to stand up and present during the board meeting, I was intrigued by another presentation from one of the client’s senior managers. Part of his plea was for greater accountability. His business unit was trying very hard to be strategic, that is to say, make sure they prioritised their work carefully so that it made the maximum strategic impact. My mind went to P3O and how such an Office could help him.

Here was an example of someone otherwise feeling starved of being held accountable, wanting their contribution to tell, but feeling rather at sea about it all. Some clear accountability in his case would have been very reassuring. So maybe accountability isn’t always something to approach with fear and trembling. Maybe it is good for the person accountable too.

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