What I Learned as a Child Makes a Culture of Accountability Easy

My family taught me everything I needed to know to create a culture of accountability. Growing up, a set of values and rules governed our lives. These tenets fit well into the six items that exists within a culture of accountability.

1. Vision / Mission – Mom’s favorite encouragement was a simple statement – ‘You can do anything you set your mind to do.’ Having such a positive support system just made everything go well. The core belief that anything is attainable if only you set your mind is a powerful motivator. The necessary step, of course, is to choose and clarify what you have set your mind to do.

2. People – My grandmother always thought I needed to choose wisely when it came to my friends. She would say ‘Only hoodlums stay out after 11:00.’ Of course, she never thought it could be me leading the pack to do anything wrong. One thing that is clear to me, working with great people always pulls the best out of me. And now, I always get tired before 11:00 anyway.

3. Process – My Dad would always tease and joke about how much faster you put something together if you actually follow the directions. His favorite sting was to remind me to read the directions if I wanted to finish with something that works. If we expect our team to work in a system, we better have directions on how the process should work.

4. Goals / KPI’s – Whenever there was a question about what I could achieve or how much I needed to do, my Mom never hesitated – ‘Just do your best’. Using this guideline always helps to set the target.

5. Teamwork – ALWAYS tell the truth. Dad made it clear, ‘If you do not have your Word, you do not have anything.’ Teamwork requires trust. No questions on this one – not always easy but always simple.

6. Tracking – When basketball provided setbacks with my shooting, my Mom had a simple fix – ‘Just get out there and shoot 10 baskets every day’. I argued that it was not enough to make any difference. She never changed her advice – just try it and see what happens. Turns out, if you do something consistently for a few days a habit is formed – it was not even that hard. The extra shots could easily be added, but it was critical to do something every day to build a pattern for success. I had my best season ever the following year.

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Accountability through Dashboards – Stopping Fraud

There are so many positive reasons to use dashboards that we often forget about an important other area to consider – stopping fraud. It is great to increase sales, save time, reward top performers, establish best practices and promote great results that derive from using proper dashboard management. Everyone loves to reward performance and find excellence. A great part of accountability is acknowledging, promoting and rewarding excellence.

We also have a duty to our organizations to protect it from bad behavior. Unfortunately in many professions partners or those that deliver services have the opportunity to cheat their organization. Without proper safe guards a person can do work for others while getting paid by one organization, bill separately for services done on behalf of the organization or other forms of using time and resources that should be applied to organization but not allowing the organization to reap the compensation to which it is entitled. While these efforts are often found in the end, an organization can risk financial ruin if not discovered quickly enough. At the very least an organization is deprived of its rightful rewards that harms those entitled to the earnings.

By establishing dashboards, reports or other accurate measurements of both operational performance and/or financial compensation a manager can observe changes in behavior that may be intentionally or negligently occurring. With a history of past performance and a process to monitor behavior on a regular basis, it is possible to discover changes in production, sales, expenses or other critical factors that can occur when unethical behavior is happening. Without measurements and observation a large organization may allow staff to either fraudulently take invoices, cash or inventory without being noticed. When regular reports are created for inventory versus sales, billable hours by staff, procedures by medical staff or other similar performance measures, changes are quickly noticed. By catching lower numbers quickly, further research can stop the loss. For example, careless record keeping could explain unbilled services, video tapes can show theft or lower billable hours can be examined to see if work is not being done that needs to be done.

Studies show that accountability is desired by top performers, helps middle performers to improve and provides protection from those with bad intentions. The book ‘Leadership without excuses’ by Jeff Grimshaw and Gregg Baron discusses studies that show most people do better work when accountability is consistently applied. In fact, without proper accountability, there is a loss of performance as many have lower performance when expectations are not clear and there are no consequences for inadequate performance.

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Nap time and Stand Up Meetings

Preschool in Bangalore, babysitting by Dad in Ireland and baseball coach in Virginia. Three continents, 9.5 hours of time zone difference and kids ranging from 3 to 11. Deadlines for Big Data dashboards, QA work pending and a big query that must run in .5 seconds. When can you meet and what is needed to get this done today? Software professionals, like many others have the opportunity to work with teammates from all over the world while raising families and earning a living that is rewarding and challenging. But how do you balance everything?

At our company we have a vision for our future that includes making a significant impact on the productivity of our clients. At the same time we are all committed to ensuring everyone has sufficient time with family and friends. We have fathers and mothers that want to spend more time with their kids so flex-time around sports and school events is very helpful. We also have staff on three continents. Since know how to communicate and work in different time zones, we have a great opportunity for stay at home parents in Asia that want to be available for their kids during the day but still work 3-4 hours with teams in the US. About the time that parents put young children to bed in Asia, we are just in the middle of our day here on the east coast of North America.

It started with our vision, but we found the key to a global work force was great communication, systems and trust. It does take a bit more time up front to work remotely. We have to be very clear and have trusting relationships. We had a benefit that we all worked together in the same place to get to know each other so we build our trust face-to-face. However, maintaining our relationships as worked apart was critical. Until we had our process and systems in place the trust could not compensate for the need for clarity and clear roles and responsibilities.

It is not all perfection and peace, but what is? There remain conflicts and challenges. What professional ever has enough time or resources to do everything perfectly? We like our progress and team work. The focus on the balance also means that we must sometimes choose work when an important deadline or a critical situation requires our efforts at inconvenient times. Just like our team at work must help each other, our family and friends also must help out. We try to remind ourselves that flexibility allows for special events to fit nicely to compensate when the work load is not so convenient to our personal lives.

A few key items that we have found that make it work
1. Dedicated space with a door to remind children that this is work space
2. Reliable internet connection so that web meetings can use video
3. Asking clarifying questions in advance to avoid wasting time waiting for answers when other time zones are not working
4. Shared calendars so necessary meetings can be scheduled easily
5. Agendas and detailed questions sent in advance of meetings to use time wisely

Work life balance is a key driver for many – flex time and global work forces allow interesting work life balance options. The challenges of global times zones allow interesting work family balance options. At BandyWorks we have a number of parents that address their family needs by using the time zone to enable both a work career and a strong family balance. Of course working at home pays back both work travel time and expense. The other side is making sure we separate our work space from our home space – both the physical and the mental. As with our software projects, we continue to learn and improve as we go forward.

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