Whose Job is on the Line?
Accountability! That is what it has all been about. And in the last 12 weeks over 50,000 lost jobs. Individuals, who were job holders, lost jobs while conflicting business or product entities, deep hierarchical structures, top heavy leadership, overlapping roles and duplicated functions survived Vision, Strategies, Policies, Institutions, hierarchies, Power & Politically motivated organizational Centers tend to proliferate when job holders are held to answer for their performance. At one level this is appropriate. Buck stops with the job holder! At another level it needs investigation. Performance & not power based accountability is the heart of an organizational model that needs to exist in the organization.
Accountability does flow upwards in the organization. Every role holder who supervises creation and/or execution of strategies, policies, processes, systems or people are held accountable for their personal, individual conduct. Accountability is answering for the result of one’s actions or omissions. It is the moment of truth, wherein one answers for his or her actions and accepts the consequences, good or bad. Accountability makes clear reasons for, motives and importance of actions in the eyes of managers and employees alike. Strong demonstration of accountability strengthens one’s credibility. It is important to remember that accountability when exercised positively results in rewards for good performance, and lack of accountability results in discipline for poor performance.
Factors are dynamic. I can relate to many organizations where owing to combination of dynamic factors such as Presence (Global & National) Systemic (Industry & Function), People (Political & Performing) and Inherited (Values & Culture) the CEO is waging an ongoing battle to manage affairs while enthusiastic employees are working at cross purposes, parallel power centers are pulling their own strings and multiple entities are following their own agenda. This familiar scenario, so amenable to articulation, is often left unattended, not necessarily because of the CEO (or the Chief Minister – CM with executive powers to make things happen but with political compulsions) is an unwilling or an incompetent role holder (this is possible too) but the agendas pursued by the overall institution is quite conflicted & lethargic. Accountable Role Holder perhaps is a victim caught in a web for he/she plays politics to get his way!
Let us see how we can unravel this web.
The first level involves the internal environment. where it can be viewed as a resource conversion machine that takes inputs (people, systems, advisory, money, materials and equipment) from the external environment (i.e., the outside world), converts them into useful products, goods & services and makes them available to customers as outputs. This is best done when the CEO is controlling the resource conversion machine. In the CM’s situation resources were within reach but his role holders in the home ministry, Intelligence & Security establishments or the Bureaucracy comprehensively failed to convert. So what was needed? A plain and simple unadulterated authority to get things done, without the mandatory upward checking that has become a bane of our decision making process!
The second level at the external environment consists of all the outside institutions and forces that have an actual or potential interest or impact on the institution’s ability to achieve its objectives: competitive, economic, technological, political, legal, demographic, cultural and ecosystem Environmental forces create challenges and opportunities for the organization. A CEO, I admire comprehensively manages this using a strong external stakeholder relationship by acting promptly, while considering, outlays, outcomes, consequences & costs be it the board, media, clients, agencies, staff or community. It is here that a CEO is visibly Accountable!
Supervision is a myth. It is impractical for a CEO to handle or directly supervise all of the work of his entity’s businesses or functions. In order to meet the organization’s goals, focus on objectives, and ensure that all work is accomplished; CEO must possess authority that provides legitimate power to direct people to act responsibly, act sensitively, take risks & fulfill their obligations. The CM’s imbroglio on lack sensitivity to show case tragedy to Bollywood is well known. But the shocking aspect of accountability in a corporate context is where a CEO finds it near impossible to delegate owing to parallel people power structures. He is confused & does not know of the legitimate organization that he should trust and work with. He uses political power when formal authority is missing.
Delegation, the downward transfer of formal authority and that which operates on a trusting empowerment is when teams act (also called responsibility), while the CEO remains accountable for the outcome. Delegation of authority is a person-to-person relationship requiring trust, commitment, and contracting between the CEO and the employee. But Formalization is an important step in building structures to the extent to which each of the businesses are pre explained, its policies & end state outcomes are clearly stated.
Trust. An official structure conceived and built by the leadership. Classical power plays are best found WHEN FORMALIZATION IS NOT TRANSPARENTLY DONE, including remote powers, ambiguous roles, conflicting entities and multiple stakeholders. No confusion here, some operating CEO’s or the CM for that matter most often than not possess few substantive powers, or in its presence the will to act. And finally, Veto & Control is the process through which standards for performance of people and processes are set, communicated, and applied. Veto is directly related to declaring a “No Free Meal Zone”, when the CEO has to act, decisively, boldly, value based, standing up to their roles and calling the bluff on their power masters, be it their global MNC bosses, or local financial promoter, or the remote control central politburo. Sometimes acting against power centers works to your advantage.
Or you know that your CEO’s JOB is on the LINE!.