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Accountability in Lean (Part 2)

  • Try to identify, and change, situations where leaders, especially junior leaders, in your organization are held accountable for things they cannot control. It creates a very frustrating situation that saps job satisfaction.
  • If you are in charge of other leaders, make sure you are clear about your expectations for them. This will actually benefit you while also helping your team. When you grant authority, your subordinate leaders will make decisions. Being clear about how you will hold them accountable helps them use that authority effectively.

Being on a project team gives many people their first real taste of accountability and authority over others. People in day-to-day jobs get the authority to operate machines, and are accountable for following a process. But when they are assigned to a project team, suddenly they are asked to make decisions in a way that they are not generally accustomed to. They may decide to move a person’s desk as a part of an office kaizen, upsetting that employee. And they will have to stand up in front of an audience and spell out the gains from the week.

Project leaders should be aware of this challenge that their team is facing, and work to provide specific coaching on the topic.

The privilege of authority comes with the burden of accountability. It is important to note that authority can be delegated but accountability cannot. There will certainly be overlap, but a production manager, for example, cannot make a supervisor solely accountable for the performance of an assembly line.

Never blame a subordinate for something you are accountable for. The truth is, one of your jobs is to get your team members, even your junior leaders, to do their jobs. If they don’t, it is still a knock on you. Basically, what this means is that you should embrace the philosophy of “The buck stops here.”

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