Accountability Plan: Making Priorities Real & Aligned

Let me ask you about your business:

  1. Do you have an accountability plan that people follow?
  2. Does everyone know what their priorities are?
  3. Is everyone aligned with their priorities, do they know why they are doing what they do?

Why is it that we put so much energy into things that aren’t important, just to avoid the hard, unpleasant tasks we know we need to do? It’s not that we don’t know what to do. It’s just that we don’t do it.

We invent excuses, especially the ‘no-time’ excuse, by busyness like cleaning and organizing to get ready to do what we should have already started.  Oh yeah, I do it too. I’m always joking that I get ready to get ready to get ready to get ready….

  • I need to make those calls, but first let me organize my calling list…
  • I need to email, but let me clean up my computer desk first…
  • I really should write up my presentation, but first let me do a search on TED for related topics…

Before you know it, the afternoon’s gone and you haven’t started on the urgent priority task. Whoops! Out of time…again. My, how the time flies… What can be done? Last week I wrote about Top 5 priorities:

Key question to answer: What do you need to be doing today to keep this company moving towards its plans at the speed the market demands?

Once you’ve determined your company’s Top 5 and Top 1 of 5 priorities, each person needs to determine his or her own specific priorities. This list can form the basis of a regular performance appraisal process. For example, Has this person completed their Top 5 and Top 1 of 5 priorities for this quarter?

Continue to cascade this down the organization until you reach everyone. Everyone should be working with their list of Top 5 priorities for a particular time frame: quarterly, monthly, etc.

When you do this, you’re creating alignment. Everybody sees what you see and aspires to what you aspire. Alignment moves from being a vague buzzword to concrete steps for daily action.

Don’t delay on this. Once you’ve set the Top 5 and Top 1 of 5 priorities, determine who’s going to be the point person on what, and when they’ll produce deliverables. Yes, this all leads to accountability. It’s a straightforward plan for organizing action.

Straightforward, but not necessarily easy. People get hung up on their priorities, making it real. And business leaders get hung up with enforcing the accountability part. If you’re not meeting regularly and giving support and feedback, it won’t work.

Here’s a definition of accountability from Verne Harnish’s Rockefeller Habits to start you thinking and planning:


This names WHO is going to be sure a particular activity is going to be accomplished. These four levels (Accountability, Goals, Schedule, Action Plans) essentially define WHO has to do WHAT WHEN and HOW in order to get things accomplished in the organization.

It’s important to understand the difference between accountability and responsibility. Many might be responsible for getting something done (creating a new product), but only one person can have accountability.

If the buck doesn’t stop somewhere with a single person for every activity, then it’s likely not to be completed or completed well.  Ask, “Who owns the outcome?”

What are your thoughts?