12 Ways to Instill Authority and Responsibility at Your Company

© lestyan - Fotolia.com

© lestyan – Fotolia.com

This is a guest post by Keith Stadler of KSA, LLC.

Note from Bill: In last week’s guest post by June Jewell, we looked at project manager accountability. We’ll continue that theme with this look from Keith Stadler at the importance of accountability – authority and responsibility – across your company.

Straightforward organizational challenges can have well-defined solutions around which general agreements are easily made. But for serious matters, the challenges, let alone solutions, are rarely straightforward.

Problems like this are complex, difficult, mysterious, and sometimes require gut-wrenching choices, if properly addressed. This is where a clear understanding of the authority and responsibility to secure the right outcomes is essential.

Surprisingly enough, in many organizations, the matter of making clear in whom the responsibility and authority lays for tasks, projects, and processes is ambiguous; unstated and left to the imagination of the workforce, including the person who will ultimately be seen as the “responsible party.”

It’s not difficult to visualize the effects and results of this kind of arrangement. A consensus-based dynamic necessarily takes over:

  • Outputs are the “lowest common denominator” outcome on which all can agree.
  • Co-corkers minimize the impact of collaboration on their office rather than maximizing broader organizational benefits.
  • Innovation, creativity, adaptation, critical thinking, and advocacy are discouraged, even punished.
  • Outspoken personalities dominate collaboration.
  • Everyone has a veto, knows it, and feels empowered to exercise it.
  • Projects and processes can and do stop altogether when a single party refuses to act.
  • It can be difficult to determine if a decision or outcome was reached at all.
  • There are minimal or no sustainment of outcomes.
  • People simply refuse to show up for planning sessions and meetings.
  • Consensus accommodations are made to work around the personalities involved instead of doing what is best for the organization.
  • The status quo usually prevails.

So much harm comes of this kind of gap in an organization, but it’s so simple to avoid. Here are 12 things that leaders at every level can do:

  • Explicitly and clearly identify the person responsible and confer on her or him the authority need to complete the task, project, or govern the process.
  • Make it known to all the participants and their bosses.
  • Put it in writing.
  • Empower the collaboration effort with your own clear intent. Tell the leader, his team, and their bosses, what is the purpose, a little about the method of getting there, and what the final product will be in your mind.
  • Tell them what it is not.
  • Be available for follow-up discussions and interim guidance as work proceeds.
  • Ask how it is going.
  • Make it evident to all that the person in charge is answerable for the final outcome by engaging them as the group leader.
  • Ask how you can help the project leader, then do it.
  • Precisely capture any decisions that are needed along the way and act on them.
  • Follow up with the project leader to ensure that progress is being made. If not, find out why and help fix it.
  • Publicly praise and thank the team and especially its leader. Tell their bosses too.

These things easy to do and will be appreciated by everyone involved. Over time, employees will embrace the company’s approach to authority and responsibility and it will become second nature.


Keith Stadler is the founder of KSA, LLC, a company dedicated to advancing organizational visions and fundamentally transforming how businesses everywhere are run. He has over 40 years of leadership experience in organizations from the very large and established to small technology start ups, and everything in between. Visit www.ksaintergration.com for more information.


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