Archive for January, 2010

Creating Accountability in Cross-Functional Teams

January 29th, 2010

Categories: Business Transformation, Leadership, Managing Technology, Managing People, Startups

Tags: startups, leadership, collaboration, productivity, team building, go-to-market, project management, product management, program management, avoiding pitfalls, international product teams, project teams, small medium business, virtual teams, blue egg partners, managing innovators and technology, cross functional teams, cross functional team management The 4th of the 5 Keys to Successful Cross-functional Team Leadership

Creating Accountability in Cross-Functional Teams

The 4th of the 5 Keys to Successful Cross-functional Team Leadership

Over the years, I have brow-beat, begged, babied, and over-rewarded just to get team members to be accountable – the fact of the matter is you can’t force accountability. Team members must make themselves accountable, not just to themselves but to the team. The level at which people are accountable to your project depends on their esteem and shared vision with the team, company and customer.

Accountability is the glue that holds cross-functional teams together – period. Google “accountability” and you get lots of lofty hints, practicum, and babble for making people accountable. Truth is, if a team member isn’t accountable, you CAN’T make them accountable. But you CAN address the symptoms before the first team meeting.

Team Accountability Exercise

Before the first team meeting, try this exercise: Simply ask all team members to email you a one paragraph overview of their primary roles and responsibilities on the team. Make it due a few days before the first team meeting. Some team members will complete the paragraph the day it is assigned, some when it’s due, some by the first meeting, and some won’t do it at all. This will give the team leader a spot on assessment of who will be accountable and who won’t before the first meeting. At the first meeting address accountability issues as a team, again in the goal setting process, and then on an individual basis as part of roles and responsibilities.

At the point that someone has missed a deadline, or shown other symptoms of an accountability deficit, the root cause can be traced to organizational, structural, personal or situational. The tools available to you depend on the root cause, the duration of the project, and the importance of the participant. If you triage the root cause early, and take necessary action to align the team to alleviate root cause, loyalty will be the result.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to accountability:

– Have a solid project plan in place. If tasks and deliverables are not communicated, documented, and measurable they are NOT accountable.

– Instill open collaboration and communication in and amongst team members. Team members accountable to their peers have a higher level of accountability.
– Inspire and motivate vision, innovation, creativity and performance in the team.

– Understand root cause of accountability deficit; take extenuating circumstances into account.

– Have the autonomy and authority as team leader to address an under-performing team member. (Important when the team member is not a direct report.)

– Rewards and consequences must be genuine and visible. (More on this in Key 5 – Reward)

Next time, Key 5 – Reward; and as always, your feedback, comments, suggestions are welcome.

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