In your organisation, who is responsible for success?

A new interpretation of “responsibility” in your organisation could open up alignment, individual motivation and teamwork.

The word “responsible” has too many counter-productive meanings. If “you are responsible for something” it could mean:

  • Something is in your power or control
  • You are to blame
  • You will exert your best efforts to achieve something

The first definition doesn’t make sense in today’s turbulent business world. Is anything truly in your power or control? Or is just subject to varying degrees of influence? Should you avoid responsibility if you can’t see how to succeed?

The second definition is even more damaging. Responsibility becomes something to avoid, lest you are the one with your head exposed above the parapet when the blame-game starts. Once success is certain, others will move in to gather praise.

The third definition empowers everyone in the organisation. I am responsible for the health of my family – it doesn’t mean that they will never be ill, just that I will take proactive steps to keep them healthy and be committed to getting them better when they are sick.

Under this definition, even the lowliest employee can be responsible for the success of the organisation. This is their only “job responsibility”. Overturning conventional wisdom, overlap is encouraged – the more people who are responsible for the same result, the better.

Without the stigma of blame, recognising the impossibility of 100% control, everyone is freed up to give their best shot to fulfil their “responsibility”.


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