Accountability cannot be outsourced, subcontracted, or delegated.
“The buck stops here,” President Truman said.
We can delegate responsibility to others, but we are always responsible for the outcome.
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, 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 are customers who are purchasing a service that 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 for, 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.
Even at companies whose teams felt accountable prior to outsourcing, it takes time to explain and accept that we cannot offshore accountability.
Responsibility can be delegated, subcontracted and even outsourced, but accountability always remains with us.
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