How to Achieve Workplace Accountability-Step 1 of 4

*It is helpful to read How to Achieve Workplace Accountability – Introduction before beginning Step 1.

Anything worth doing is worth doing well.

Hunter S. Thompson

Managers, are you holding employees accountable for the right things? Are you focused on the activities and work products that drive results? No doubt, your employees have a long list of responsibilities. Some of them are necessary as a condition for the job, but have little impact on results. In all likelihood, about 20% of their activity and work products actually drive results. Step 1 in the accountability system is all about sorting out and focusing on the things that matter.

In How to Achieve Workplace Accountability – Introduction, I discussed Goals, introduced the topic of Work Products, and shared why we are working our way backwards through the system. To continue, this blog post deals with Work Products: listing, ranking, and establishing quality standards for which employees should be held accountable. For reference, here is the Accountability System introduced in the previous blog post.

Employees > Tasks > Processes > Work Products > Goals

The Business of Accountability System

In preparation for this lesson, I suggested making a list of the tangible work products that you require from your employees. We will use that list for the remainder of this lesson so have it handy. The exercise of ranking work products will help you distinguish accountabilities from responsibilities. That way, you can focus your time, attention, and effort holding employees accountable for the right things!

  • First, rank the tangible work products according to their impact on achieving results with (#1) having the highest degree of impact.
    • Example: a sales manager’s list for her sales people might look something like this,
      1. Opportunity forecast report
      2. Pipeline report
      3. Activity report for this week and next week
      4. Updated opportunity and meeting notes in Salesforce
      5. List of discovery questions
      6. Sales Presentation
      7. Product demonstration script

Are there any items on the list that belong on a “To Do List”? Perhaps they are necessary for policies or procedures, but have little impact on achieving business results, for example expense reports or travel schedules.

Are there any items on the list that are redundant or unnecessary? Delete or move them.

  • Second, develop quality standards for each work product beginning with the most important (#1) on the list. For items that can be measured, use the appropriate increment (#, %, $). For items that can’t be measured, use positive and negative examples (e.g. it should look like this, not that). My sales manager’s example might include:
    1. A quality opportunity forecast: All opportunities scheduled to close within the next ______ (#) days, meet the funnel definition criteria, and represent _______ ($) revenue.
    2. A quality pipeline should equal 4 X annual quota.
    3. A quality activity report includes list meetings held with next steps, and meetings confirmed for next week.
    4. Meeting notes in Salesforce should be current, identify participants, agenda and outcome of meeting. Meeting notes should not be vague relative to the agenda and expected outcome.
    5. A quality discovery question list should include open-ended questions designed to find compelling reasons, such as a pain or a gain, to move forward with another meeting. It should not focus on product specifications.
    6. An introductory sales presentation should include no more than 9 slides, provide a company overview, history, and relevant testimonials.
    7. A quality product demonstration script should address customer needs uncovered with discovery and should not attempt to cover every capability.

This exercise of ranking work products and developing quality standards benefits you and your team by:

  • Providing structure for performance reviews and coaching
  • Providing a method for tracking progress toward goals
  • Providing a diagnostic tool for determining development needs

Also, employees will feel more confident when they know exactly what you expect from them. If you invest time and effort listing, ranking, and developing standards for work products, you will spend less time, repeating, reviewing, and reminding. Take your time, start with number one, the most important work product on your list, and go from there.

The majority of my twenty + years’ experience is with sales managers, hence the sales examples. Don’t hesitate to reach out if you would like a second opinion or some guidance with your work products, especially setting quality standards.

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