Friday, June 12, 2009

Are you clear about your authority, responsibility and accountability?

The job description for the individual in any organization should clearly define his/her authority, responsibility and accountability. This is crucial so that the job and assignments for the individual can be carried out in accordance to management expectation.

Individuals who are clear about their authority, responsibility and accountability, and perform accordingly, will eventually gain job satisfaction and also job recognition sooner or later.

While these terms are normal literature in school of management, people like me coming from the technical background who didn't study and graduate from the management college also ought to learn about them, especially when we are already in the management position in our organization.

  • Authority is the power granted to the individuals by their job assignment so that they can make decisions, and also direct others to follow their decisions made. Normally, more authority will be given to more senior positions in the organization.

  • Responsibility is the obligation incurred by individuals in their roles in the organization in order to effectively perform their assignments. Responsibility is always a key performance indicator to be measured for appraisal.

  • Accountability is the state of being totally answerable for the success or failure to accomplish their specific assignment(s). People gain credits (and also disgraces) for their accountability. In fact, accountability is the summation of authority and responsibility.

We must be aware that authority and responsibility can be delegated to lower level individuals (eg. subordinates) in the organization, whereas accountability usually rests with the individual.

When we delegate the authority and responsibility downwards, we will also develop our management and leadership skills. Bear in mind that we are still accountable and answerable to the result (success/failure) of the overall tasks, while at the same time the delegate recipients held their own authority, responsibility and accountability for the portion delegated to them.

We usually find management issue when people are not clear about their authority, responsibility, and accountability, and/or they do not understand well about the meaning of these terms. Some examples of such issue are:
  • Senior people keep the task to themselves and not willing to delegate down. This phenomenon is pretty common in the technical environment. This will be unhealthy for the growth of the senior people as well as the subordinate(s), and also cause productivity issue. In fact, this is also a demerit factor for the leadership of the senior people.
  • Senior people delegate down the work, and try to carry away the success merit. In fact, it is not necessary to carry away, because they are accountable for it and deserve for the merit of success. They should therefore also recognise and give merit to their delegate recipients for their accomplishment too. The junior people must also understand that their senior deserve the merit of success, because they are accountable for it all the while.
  • Senior people delegate down the work, but try to push the failure accountability to the delegate recipients. Well, you must know that you are always be accountable, be it a success or failure, and cannot escape from it. In no way you could avoid it, so just face it. Any attempt of avoidance will bring disgrace to yourself.
  • Responsibility is not delegated together with suitable authority. This will cause difficulty for the delegate recipients to carry out the tasks without the authority given, and could be a cause of failure later on.
  • The individuals are not clear about the boundary of their authority, responsibility and accountability. This might cause management issue when somebody try to overpower, or unable to use their power effectively and efficiently. It is the responsibility of their superior to correct them when this kind of situation happens.
  • The individuals are not clear about their authority, responsibility and accountability. This is a serious case because the individuals are unclear about their role in the organization and what is their value to the organization. Very soon they will be demotivated. It is the responsibility of their superior to make sure they understand clearly about their authority, responsibility and accountability from day one when they join the organization.
Now, a simple question for you to ask yourself: Are you clear about your authority, responsibility, and accountability in your company? If not, you better find them out as soon as possible.


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