Imagine my surprise and delight as I am reading Patrick Lencioni’s new book “Advantage” where he talks about the essential nature of accountability as an ingredient of successful companies, and then he goes on to say this:
...That’s because peer-to-peer accountability is the primary and most effective source of accountability on the leadership team of a healthy organization. Most people assume that the leader of an executive team should be the primary source of accountability -- and that’s the norm in most unhealthy organizations.”
What was so delightful about reading Lencioni’s position is that what we do really well is implement peer accountability. And Lencioni is right, it is the most effective source of accountability.
Peer pressure is a more powerful motivator because our individual social identity in our peer group is a driving personal need. For peer pressure to work in a company, the peer relationships must be valued relationships. Creating that kind of high value relationship is the real trick.
When we implement the Entrepreneurial Operating System we do several things to cause those relationships to develop and flourish. First, the Accountability Chart process we use causes the members of the team to invest in one another’s success. Second, we use discipline around company values to ensure the people working together share the same values. When someone shares your values the relationship tends to grow naturally. Third, we do something very subtle every week that deepens these relationships. And finally, we put a structure around accountability that forces it to the surface over and over again, every week. Interestingly, the team ends up loving it. It is fun to be part of a great team.
Who benefits the most? Well one thing we know, the CEO thinks that it’s the CEO. Peer-to-peer accountability takes a lot of pressure off the CEO. This isn’t all Pollyanna. As Lencioni point out “The leader of the team, though not the primary source of accountability, will always be the ultimate arbiter of it.”
No longer does the CEO ever have to ask “Say, you were working on XYZ project. Where are you on it?” This is a painful question to ask, because you know if you have to ask it, the answer is not going to be good. In the EOS implementation, this question never needs to be asked because the CEO knows that the right things are being worked on and knows the status of every initiative every week. If something is likely to go off-track, the pressure of the peer group and the process ensures it gets resolved.