Work & its Organisation > Work in Organizations QH2 > Accountability Dynamics

Accountability Dynamics


The focus here is discharging accountability for producing desirable outcomes in organizations.

Results are what count in organizations, and managers are accountable for them. Popular issues like leadership, culture, innovation &c are simply means to an end: and so invoked as secrets, reasons or excuses. They must all be put to one side for now.

The levels of management have been identified as being about carrying responsibility for changing reality. Their use to design line-management has been identified as the basis for the strongest possible accountability structure. But closer inspection via this framework confirms what every CEO knows: line-management alone is not enough. Using what has been discovered, a fuller picture of accountability can now be teased out.

In clarifying details, I assume knowledge of methods of managing and levels for structuring organizations.

Altering Reality

Remember:  Outcomes are ends. Outputs are pure means.

The hierarchy of levels of management of work is purposive in nature. That is natural because organizations are purposive systems, and we use purposes to design their structure.

Taking a whole organization perspective, it is notable (and either surprising or obvious depending on your viewpoint) that 6 of the 7 levels of purpose are determined by HQ (i.e. at WL6WL7). See details.

The rationale for the lower five levels, operations, is to enable given values to be converted into diverse outputs so that taken together they embody desired outcomes.

The internal duality of this hierarchy, created by the outcomes v outputs duality is values v systems—as shown in the diagram at right and explained below.

Operations must engage with brute reality in a way that HQ can avoid. Fortunately, this is where line-management is possible and information systems can help. A tool to help ensure that engagement is effective is the map of accountability dynamics as developed here.

Mapping Dynamics

The pattern of transitions from WL7 to WL1 may look simple and straightforward. However, in practice it is not so easy. The first task, already completed, is to sharply distinguish what goes on at each level. That permits design of a management structure for an organization and enables employment of suitably capable staff.

However, when staff actually use that structure in doing work, matters get more complicated because there is an instant activation of a tension-generating duality. Appreciating that tension allows for the construction of a dynamic map that represents requisite accountability processes in organizations.

Pursuit of this inquiry therefore requires the following standard steps:

  1. Consider the flow of accountability in moving up and down the hierarchy. «Down» is natural because values must influence actions.
  2. Identify the tension emerging in practice—the dynamic duality—so as to define Centres that define handling at each level in the hierarchy.
  3. Systematically consider whether and how each Centre directly influences the other Centres so as to enable the exercise of accountability.

Originally posted: 22-Feb-2014

All posted material is part of a scientific project and should be regarded as provisional. Visitors are encouraged to think through the topics and propositions for themselves. Copyright © Warren Kinston 2009-2016.
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