Actually, the newness of the disease it debatable, but the nature of it is not. Accountability has become a buzzword. Something you say when you want to sound authoritative or smart. But the average company has forgotten what the word means. So let’s at least get that much out of the way right now.
Accountability: “the obligation to bear the consequences for failure to perform as expected.”
The problem is that today’s corporation has shifted accountability away from individuals and spread it out over a group of people or to an entire company. On the surface, this sounds like a good idea. Get more people responsible for making something happen and you have that many chances for it to happen right? Wrong. The opposite happens. Everyone expects that everyone else will do it, so nobody does it.
This doesn’t happen right away. When you institute the “everyone’s responsible” policy, everyone is hypersensitive for a while. So it appears in the early going that things are working as you expected. But then time passes. People get used to the fact that things are always going well and they slip. They start counting on it, and the result is that things blow up in your face. And what do we do when this happens … we spread the accountability around even more.
You have to establish an environment where accountability is enforced, not just paid lip service. Assign accountability to individuals and enforce it. The corporate world has become so soft and politically correct, that it has abandoned accountability for exemption. People see this and behave accordingly; conversely, if they see co-workers held responsibile individually for assigned tasks they will mirror that example. When they see that there are consequences, they will respond with care and attention to their own responsibilities.
Now I am not a big believer in micromanagement, dictatorships, or even confrontation for that matter, but I am a big fan of people doing what they are supposed to … plain and simple. Individual accountability makes for happier employees, lower overhead cost, and increased productivity. So the next time someone at your office suggests that everyone is accountable for something … beware.