How to create a culture of accountability in your business

Many a business spends a ton of time, energy, and money on creating strategic plans that no one in the business can even put their hands on six months after they were created. All of the Rah! Rah! that resulted from the strategic planning retreat has long since fizzled just a few months down the road, turned into a pulp by the daily grind of running the business. What a shame.

The most important part of any planning process isn’t the plan itself but the action and implementation that follows the plan every single day. 

In the last article I talked about the how a good planning process starts with the vision of the business, and cascades down to 3-year, 1-year, and 90-day plans. Each of those plans involves profit, impact, and enjoyment goals, along with 5-10 building blocks required to achieve those goals. The key to ensuring those building blocks can be completed and put together so that you reach your goals? Accountability.

Here’s how you instill a culture of accountability in your business:

  1. Each 90-day building block is assigned to one person and one person only. That they are assigned to the building block doesn’t mean that they are the person who has to do everything that is associated with it; rather it means that they are ultimately responsible that the building block is achieved.
  2. Each person responsible for one or more building blocks must create their own 90-day goals that will enable them to achieve their assigned building block(s).
  3. Each person assigned a building block (and possibly others, depending on the structure of your business) meets every single week at the same time and place to report on progress. This weekly meeting cadence is essential to create ongoing accountability in the business.

The best advice on meeting structure that I have come across is from Gino Wickman in his book Traction.  When I read the book a little while ago I was amazed at how much of it resonated with my thoughts and experience in strategy, operations, and organizational design. I wish I had read it long ago!

I have combined some of Wickman’s suggestions with my own to create the exact meeting agenda you should use for every single weekly meeting:

AGENDA

  1. TMSG! (5 mins)
    • This stands for “Tell me something good!” Each person very quickly shares one positive item – this could be about something business-related, personal, or the world in general. This creates a nice positive vibe to kick off the meeting.
  2. Data Review (5 mins)
    • One person on the team is responsible for communicating key data about the business (sales, new clients, revenue, bank/loc balance, AR, market share, etc.) The leadership team should agree on what key data should be reported on, and how often. Some data might only be available monthly or quarterly as opposed to weekly. The data is simply presented as is at this point in the meeting, and if there are any issues with the data, that can be added to the Issue Resolution portion of the agenda. 
  3. Action Items (5 mins)
    • A quick review of the action items from the previous meeting. Each person responsible simply says “done” or “not done”. If “not done”, the item is kept on the action item list for the next meeting. If an action item is not done for two consecutive meetings, it is added to the Issue Resolution portion of the agenda. 
  4. Building Blocks (5 mins) 
    • Each person references the 90-day building blocks for which they are responsible, as well as their individual 90-day goals, and says either “on track” or “not on track”. If “not on track” the item is added to the Issue Resolution portion of the agenda.
  5. Issue Resolution (60 mins)
    • This is the portion of the meeting where issues are discussed and resolved. The business should have a running list of issues that come up during the week (and any held over from prior weeks). This is the time to deal with them. Spend 5 minutes to decide as a group which of the issues is most important, and resolve that first. Then work through the list in order of priority. It’s the meeting chair’s job to keep the discussion only on the issue being discussed. An issue is resolved when there is an agreed upon action item assigned to someone to report on at the next meeting. Not all issues will be resolved in every meeting. That’s okay as long as at each meeting you work through the issues in order of priority. 
  6. Re-cap Action Items for Next Meeting (5 mins)
    • One person should be responsible at each meeting to be the keeper of the issues list and the action items list. It should be someone other than the person who is chairing the meeting. This person runs through the action items list at the end of the meeting noting who is responsible for the item. This gives the opportunity for everyone to revisit and get clear on who is doing what for the next meeting. Everyone agrees, and the meeting ends.

As Wickman says in Traction, the only permitted reasons for missing a weekly meeting are vacation and death. I would add illness to the list, but otherwise agree that everyone on your leadership team has to buy in to the importance of this meeting. They must build their weekly schedule around this meeting. No excuses.

By implementing this weekly meeting cadence and agenda, you will have created an accountability structure among your leadership team that will ensure you move towards your company vision every single week. Plus, once it takes hold at the leadership team level, it will then make it possible to roll this out to your entire team, creating a company-wide culture of accountability that all businesses strive for but few businesses have.

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