What’s Your Definition of Accountability for KPIs?

by Stacey Barr |

Our definition of accountability for KPIs, or accountability for performance, profoundly affects people’s ownership of performance. This new accountability definition creates ownership…

Does your current accountability definition, for KPIs or performance, involve any of the following ideas:

  • taking responsibility?
  • producing or delivering outcomes?
  • hitting targets?
  • being accountable for results?

accountability equals diagram

What I always find is that people aren’t really sure how to define accountability. If you need to use the word ‘accountable’ or ‘responsible’ when you define it, you’re not really defining it. And if you say that it’s about delivering some quantitative outcome, you shouldn’t wonder why people shy away from being held accountable.

Do you hold people accountable for hitting targets?

Holding people accountable for quantitative results, like hitting targets or quotas, means that they will do whatever they can to get those quantitative results. You know as well as I do what that means:

None of this behaviour leads to what we really want from accountability: performance improvement. Performance cannot improve while ever people are sweeping the problems under the rug for fear of being dragged over the coals for ‘underperforming’.

Our typical definition of accountability drives the wrong behaviour.

With the typical definition of accountability, we’re ensuring we have lots of inaccurate good news. What we need for true performance improvement is accurate bad news.

So to truly improve performance, our accountability definition must change. It should still be a challenge to encourage people to reach and stretch outside their comfort zones, but it cannot fill them with fear.

It’s time for a new accountability definition, to create ownership of performance.

Here’s what I always recommend as an accountability definition that removes fear, increases ownership, and drives the right behaviours to improve performance:

  1. routinely monitoring the important results
  2. validly interpreting their measures of those results
  3. initiating action, only ever when action is required

Read more about this definition here: //www.staceybarr.com/measure-up/what-is-a-kpi-owner-accountable-for/.

For more information, Dave Stachowiak interviewed me about accountability, on the Coaching for Leaders podcast episode 475.


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