In 2019, we moved to an OKR-based performance and strategic planning structure. Since then, I’ve been thinking about accountability and its philosophical underpinnings. It seems like there are two possible philosophical roots to accountability. The first says: “I believe that without accountability, people will stray and be unfocused.” The second says: “I believe that with accountability, people can achieve far more than they thought possible.” In other words, we either think accountability is a medicine or a vitamin.
For the person being held accountable, these underpinnings show up as either feeling so distrusted that accountability is a form of oppression, or feeling so trusted that accountability is an invitation to step into power they didn’t know they had. I’d guess that those being held accountable are far more aware of which philosophical underpinning is being employed than the one employing it. Perhaps that manager’s choice of which type of accountability has everything to do with the presence of fear in their own lives.