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Les McKeown's Predictable Success Blog

First published January 28, 2011

Gauging the degree of ownership and self-accountability in your organization 

Yesterday we saw the centrality of ownership and self-accountability to Predictable Success. So how do you gauge the strength of ownership and self-accountability in your organization? Here’s what I do:

1. Grab a problem or issue that’s relatively complicated and transcends multiple departments in the organization.

2. Randomly (and that part is important – genuinely randomly) grab a group of up to 8 people from the various impacted departments. Make sure the folks are from all levels in the organization, not just management.

3. Put them in a room and agree with them a definition of the problem.

4. Leave them with the issue and tell them they have a day to get as close as possible to fixing it (or an hour, or a morning – whatever is appropriate).

5. Give them only one instruction: They can speak to whomever they want outside the room, with your permission.

6. Come back at the end of the allotted time and ask them to describe not their proposed solution (you can get to that later), but rather, how they came up with their solution.

Look for:

– The use of ‘we’s’ and ‘us’s’ versus ‘I’ and ‘me’

– Reaching out to others for info – how often? How easy? How natural?

– The reaction of the ‘reachees’: Did they share or no? Willingly or not? Collaboratively or not?

– Formation of collaborative ‘mini-groups’ – did it happen? How effectively?

– Reaching dead-ends: how did they deal with this? Ground to a halt or brainstormed to get around it?

– Materials used: collaborative stuff like flip charts, white boards? Or ‘personal’ stuff like file notes? Or nada?

– Overlap and consensus in the solution: is there any? Or is the solution really a cobbled together group of ‘small islands’ masquerading as a solution?

There’s no metric you can use here, and there’s more of an art to it than science, so if you’re highly linear and metric driven, don’t try it – it’ll drive you crazy.

But if you’re comfortable with your own judgment and have good people-reading skills, try it a few times. After 3 or 4 go-rounds with different groups you’ll develop an intuitive sense of how much ownership and self-accountability people are exhibiting, and in time, you’ll be able to gauge it just by interacting with groups in their normal environment, without having to set up the cross-functional team.

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