Your Accountability Reality Check

August 16, 2016

What is accountability? Can you articulate how it’s different than responsibility or authority? As one of the most commonly used business terms, it’s surprising how many organizations don’t truly understand what it means in definition and application. According to Verne Harnish, CEO and Founder of Gazelles and author of Scaling Up, “though spelled differently, these business terms are often haphazardly interchanged.”

Listed below are the three definitions as defined by Scaling Up

●    Accountability belongs to the ONE person who has the “ability to count” – who is tracking the progress and giving the voice when issues arise. If more than one person is accountable, no one is accountable.

●   Responsibility falls to anyone with the “ability to respond” proactively to support the team. It includes all the people who touch a particular process or issue.

●   Authority belongs to the person or team with the final decision-making power.


To put this into perspective, let’s break down how each of these definitions come to life when it comes to managing cash flow. Typically, the CFO has accountability for cash, the CEO maintains authority over cash and everyone in the company has the responsibility to ensure cash is spent wisely. Getting clarity is critical when it comes to scaling the organization. One person cannot have accountability for everything. (Note: it is understood that many Boards of Directors hold the CEO accountable for everything, but this is a separate topic).

While the example above may or may not apply directly to your company, do you have an accountable individual assigned to each function within your organization? Each process? As a Gazelles International Certified Coach, I help companies explore these questions using the Function Accountability Chart (FACe) and Process Accountability Chart (PACe). Download these free tools today to start mapping accountability across your organization. Stay tuned for my next blog on accountability insights and you’ll have a guide to cross-check against.