Accountability is not something that can be delegated, subcontracted or outsourced.
As President Truman said, “the buck stops here”.
Responsibility on the other hand, is something that we can pass on to others, but accountability for the outcome always remains with us.
When we delegate tasks we need to also provide matching levels of authority, in order for the task to be completed, but this doesn’t delegate accountability.
Yes they are responsible for completing the task, but we remain accountable for the outcome, but we still need to track and monitor progress ,and make the necessary corrections or adjustments if the required results will not be achieved.
In my experience, this becomes even more important and difficult for people to understand, when we are involved in outsourcing.
In my last 3 companies I have been accountable for Service Delivery, where we have used outsourced services, and in each company initially my teams always saw themselves as the customer and the service provider as the supplier.
As soon as you adopt a customer/supplier relationship it is very easy to fall into the trap of believing that we have outsourced accountability. We believe that we customers who are purchasing a service which the supplier is accountable for delivering that service.
But in reality, we are not the customer, to our Business we are still the supplier, and consequently we are accountable. Blaming the supplier for failure to deliver doesn’t work as we are the supplier, and consequently we are accountable for delivery. The Business doesn’t care we chose the wrong subcontractor, partner or whatever, we are accountable and we need to fix the situation.
In each company I worked, our overall performance improved significantly as soon as we accepted our accountability, and realized that this couldn’t be delegated.
This changed our approach completely, instead of kicking our suppliers who didn’t deliver and then blaming them, we began to work with them.
With both teams now pulling in the same direction we were able to focus on solutions rather than allocating blame.
As we accepted our accountability, we felt the obligation to fix the problem rather than just sit back and wait, we became proactive.
That we cannot outsource accountability, takes time to communicate and become accepted, even companies where the teams felt accountable prior to the outsourcing.
Responsibility can be delegated, subcontracted and even outsourced, but accountability always remains with us.