In a recent meeting at a small company, the managers were asked for ideas to increase revenues and decrease costs. The assignment provided two weeks in which all managers would work on their list, and then present the ideas at the next meeting.
I couldn’t help wondering why the ideas weren’t discussed immediately. Surely, each manager in the room already has ideas for improving profitability. As I see it, the problem isn’t a lack of ideas, but rather a lack of attention and implementation. Ideas may be presented and discussed, but are soon forgotten. Often, the ideas aren’t owned by anyone and overworked managers may have no incentive to improve profits.
I’ve worked within both highly-structured (slow-changing) and agile (constantly-changing) environments. But there is a common trait found among all the successful, growing companies that is somehow lacking in unproductive, dying companies (regardless of company size) – that trait is: accountability.
Accountability makes each employee responsible for improving his or her production – from the entry-level employees, all the way up the food chain to the CEO. There can be no excuses made for those employees who think accountability doesn’t apply to them. In Dave Anderson’s book, If You Don’t Make Waves You’ll Drown, he accurately states “Start with yourself. Before you can even think about holding others accountable, you must walk your own talk and assume responsibility for your personal results – or lack of results.”
The best example I’ve seen of this was a small company that captured metrics on everything. While their metrics system had some weaknesses, overall it was an excellent way to identify those employees who contribute to the organization’s success (as well as those who pull the company down).
How can you apply this to your job? Simple – just start keeping track of your contributions and look for ways to improve. For example:
- How much revenue did your work contribute to the company?
- How much in expenses did you save the company?
- How many widgets did your contribution create? Widgets can be sales proposals, web sites, order shipments, training seminars, mousetraps, whatever.
- How many work hours did you save due to implemented efficiencies?
The key is measurement. Keep track. Compare monthly/quarterly/yearly. Notice what works and what doesn’t. Adjust.
I run an IT department for a non-IT company. For years our department was a cost center. We’re now a profit center, but only after a focused effort on providing more customer-facing services. We’ve cut costs by moving to a SaaS model and eliminating much expensive IT infrastructure. We contribute proactively to sales and marketing efforts, and hold weekly meetings to identify new efficiencies.
How can we improve further? I’d love to tie employee compensation to results and hold all employees fully accountable for their work. Motivated workers aren’t afraid of accountability, but apathetic employees are.
What can you do to increase your level of value and accountability at your company?