Accountability and Alignment: Brothers in Business

Accountability and Alignment: Brothers in Business

We began our last article by addressing some of the concerns leaders may have over the issue of effectively managing groups of people attempting to work together in an organization to overcome differences and effective function as a whole. The importance of individual accountability was discussed and folded into the concept of the importance of accountability within a workgroup, also known as Alignment.

Alignment holds six truths to be self-evident:

  • It links individual accountabilities at the group level
  • resolves gaps and overlaps of accountability and goals
  • achieves agreement on mutual respect and support
  • requires a foundation of strategy, structure and leadership
  • is best achieved using the 80/20 rule
  • is dynamic and requires regular maintenance

In order for alignment to function to its full capabilities, these six operating principles must be broken down individually and understood by leadership as well as those actively participating in workgroup alignment.

1. Alignment Links Individual Accountabilities at the Group Level.

“Alignment is the process that brings accountable individuals together into an effective whole, whether in a workgroup, team or an entire organization. Alignment is first attained at the workgroup level, and then across interdependent workgroups.” -Klatt & Murphy

The main focus that needs to be concentrated on in this operating principle is that of ensuring individuals who are going to be participating in the collective workgroup are of their own volition, on board with their personal accountability. It is imperative that those in charge make sure that each person’s Accountability Agreement is completed. This is where leaders need to begin. Once the agreement is on record, it then becomes leadership’s responsibility to take the time and make the effort to thoroughly go through each agreement with the individual. This ensures that clarity of understanding regarding the responsibility and support of the business bargain that is articulated within each agreement is congruent with employees’ and leaderships’ projected results. This practice also goes a long way toward achieving the next step, which is group accountability, or alignment as a whole.

2. Alignment Resolves Gaps and Overlaps of Accountabilities and Goals,

“We define a GAP as an accountability for a business result that no one seems to own, while an OVERLAP is an accountability for a business result that two or more people claim to own.” -Klatt & Murphy

Both of these situations are detrimental to workgroup alignment and harmony. In the first case of a gap, the projected business result becomes an orphaned issue, with no one willing to step up and take accountability in order to see it through to a successful conclusion. Regarding the issue of overlap,the workgroup stands to experience both wasted time and effort, as more than one individual is working on the same business result, culminating in doubling of the project.

These roadblocks can be easily solved through the process of a workgroup alignment meeting. During the meeting, members of the group review each individual’s Accountability Agreement to negotiate and confirm the person’s implicit understanding of their expected role. Gaps and overlaps become evident during this process and can then be resolved through effective communication and planning.

3. Alignment Achieves Agreement on Mutual Respect and Support.

“An interdependency exists where, in order to deliver on their own accountabilities, an individual relies on another person to deliver a given product or service.” -Klatt & Murphy

This involves everyone involved in the workgroup to clearly acknowledge the importance and function of interdependencies by documenting specific agreements that underpin respect and mutual support. Workgroup success requires not only individual accountability, but fully integrated alignment across the entire group – and taking things one step further respect and support resulting in alignment between multiple workgroups from different departments – in order to achieve the organization’s overall objective.

4. Alignment Requires a Foundation of Strategy, Structure and Leadership.

“Individual accountability within a workgroup, team or organization, cannot be aligned without a sound context of credible strategy, workable structure and effective leadership.” -Klatt & Murphy

An organization’s business strategy must include all the right ingredients that make up a recipe for employee motivation. Personal and professional motivation is the catalyst that drives the engine of accountability and fuels alignment. By providing hope and a clear pathway towards a prosperous future for everyone involved, leadership can facilitate the phenomenon of employee motivation through the awareness that sticking to individual’s accountability, they can directly contribute to the realization of business goals through harmonized effort.

This type of motivated alignment becomes possible when keystone corporate goals are understood by staff and leaders across the entire business enterprise. Everyone needs to understand and be willing to support the strategic goals of the organization, the methods to be employed to achieve them, and how possible future conflicts may be successfully resolved.

5. Alignment is Best Achieved Using the 80/20 Rule

“There is always an optimal value beyond which anything is toxic.” -Gregory Bateson

At some point,workgroups will experience diminishing returns on planning and time spent on alignment. The Pareto Principle, when applied to alignment suggests that 20% of misalignment is likely to cause 80% of the disruptions and challenges experienced within and between workgroups. Concentrating upon that 20% of potential problems is an effective strategy in order to combat misalignment. However, time and effort applied to anything more than the 20% becomes redundant and problem solving efficacy drops accordingly.

6. Alignment is Dynamic and Requires Regular Maintenance.

“Entropy is the enemy of all successful ventures.” -Unknown

Our contemporary business culture represents a quickly growing and constantly changing many faceted organism. Those who wish to stay in front of the pack need to remain vigilant, resourceful and flexible. The status quo, although it may have its purpose, is largely a practice of the past. Versatility regarding all business theories and practices needs to be an everyday byword, and constant, thorough checking ‘under the hood’ and tune-ups are becoming standard practice in many areas of application, including accountability and alignment. This ensures that newly emerging issues of misalignment are recognized, isolated, discussed and resolved in a positive and timely manner.


Alignment then, although a seeming simplistic concept, is in practice a rather delicate matter, with numerous characteristics and requirements that need to be recognized, understood and implemented properly in order for leaders to reach their desired outcome.

It is not a singular event to be adopted only when isolated projects are identified. It must be galvanized as a process to become a self-sustaining cycle that continually propagates itself and becomes adopted as a value within the culture of the organization. Shifting with the tides of the business climate and properly nurtured, workgroup alignment is continually reborn anew, ready to address the challenges that crop up among fresh-faced employees who are to become the next generation of successful workgroup initiates, ever striving for the brass ring that represents organizational vitality and prosperity.

Leaders should not waste time and resources trying to ‘invent’ or give birth to these two Brothers in Business. Proven Accountability / Alignment Processes already exist. They need to be identified and shaped to fit your culture.

For further reading on similar topics regarding Employee Effectiveness, please refer to our paper; 4 Simple Practices to Lead Your People Toward Success.

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