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Mastery at Work – Accountability

Accountability is taking up responsibility for work to be done. A person who accepts accountability accepts the onus of getting desired results. In other words, responsibility is assigned by others and accountability is taken by you, and it is a clear commitment to be kept!

Accountability works at 3 levels, individual, team and organizational level. Since we are speaking of mastery at individual level, we will be delving deep into how to be accountable at our personal level.

All of us have been at various points in time tested over commitment to our professional life versus some emergencies on personal level. I can think of numerous examples of my colleagues sacrificing important occasions like marriages and deaths in family to be able to complete important tasks on hand at work. We would expect most of working population to be accountable, but it is surprising to note that lack of accountability is one of the biggest worries senior executive face at workplace.

This brings us to wonder what makes us accountable? Do we foster accountability as a habit?

Here are the some of the factors which play a major role in making us accountable:

  1. Solid work ethic and character: The first thing which comes to my mind is that people with strong character realize that their work is representation of themselves and go that extra mile put their best into any job assigned to them. Having a strong work ethic and character form the foundation of accountability.
  2. Passion and Perseverance: Being passionate about doing only your best at our jobs and nothing less and also the ability to persevere in spite of various setbacks you encounter during the course of your work.
  3. Love for your job: You may be employed by an organization or may be self-employed, in both the cases, how attached are you to your job role or your business profile makes a lot of difference in the way you look at your work.
  4. Loyalty to the organization: Are you proud to the organization you work for? Do you relate to the vision of the organization? Do you believe in the goals set by the organization for yourself? The more you relate to all the above, the more you feel committed to the cause of the organization and take the accountability to achieve results.
  5. Commitment to goals: Clearly defined goals form the basis of accountability towards results. When you are determined to achieve a goal, you commit yourself to it and you become accountable for achieving it. Ideally goals should be SMART.
  6. Clear direction and planning: Having a clear strategy towards achieving goals helps in focusing better and being committed to work. Particularly during early part of the career, little help from seniors in terms of defining clear goals and tasks to be completed in order to achieve them can go a long way in making work easier for the younger generation.
  7. Clear communication: Effective communication is always simple to understand. Leaders are responsible for clearly communicating what the team is responsible for. In case of individuals, they need to follow up with their reporting managers to understand communication clearly.
  8. Prioritization of the task as per urgency is also an important part of being accountable. Ability to balance tasks will lead to completion of task on time and increase accountability.
  9. Set up reminders to complete tasks in timely manner. Keep constant track of your commitments.
  10. Consistent: Being consistent at your work without slacking. This will mean being punctual, disciplined, following rules and completing task in timely manner.
  11. Monitoring progress: Ability to monitor our progress against targeted goals in a timely manner helps us in knowing whether we are on track with respect to our goals. Ask yourself constantly “How am I doing at my Job?”
  12. Seek feedback: Feedback is crucial to understand how we stack up to expectations of others. Accurate and timely feedback is a very effective learning tool and helps not only you but also the organization to set up a culture genuine accountability.
  13. Training yourself: In case you feel you are not skilled enough to do the job, put in efforts to learn the skills required to complete the job.
  14. Follow-up with others: In case your task is dependent on a team for completion, please remember to follow up with other members of the team on their progress and holding them accountable.

Last but not the least, accountability is about high performance. Contrary to how many people might view it, being highly accountable makes us less stressful, increases our productivity and satisfaction with life, builds trust and credibility and makes people rely on us.

Anecdote: This is a story about four friends named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody. There was an important job to be done and this job was assigned to them. Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Everybody got angry about that and Somebody had to be blamed and pointed to Anybody who came in vicinity at that moment. Ultimately Nobody owned the responsibility for the work not carried out. Because it was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have. That’s how important accountability is!

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July 6, 2018 · 1:42 pm

Mastery at Work – Focused Attention

An important component for Mastery at Work is ability to focus attention and concentrate on particular activity or task for a given period of time.  Focused attention is the ability to focus on one activity without being distracted by other stimuli. Attention can be automatic or self-regulated.

Routine and repetitive tasks generally require scant attention; this is where automatic attention comes into play. Automatic attention is relatively inflexible and it cannot cope with the unexpected. A process which is very well defined and laid out for employees generally requires automatic attention. As result of routinely doing the same activity as per process. While this minimizes errors, it gives raise to inability to inability to cope with sudden and unexpected situations.

On the contrary, self-regulated attention requires focusing voluntarily on the present moment, on the task on hand. It requires a person to be open to new learning experiences, accepting of themselves and the situations they are in and also being curious about things around them.

Self-regulated attention or sustained attention is also our ability to avoid distractions which could be both external (noise, light etc.) and internal (thoughts).  It is important to understand that distractions lead to waste of time and reduce productivity, they deeply inhibit our ability to immerse ourselves in learning, creating new ways of working as well as prevent us from getting into flow of things.

Biggest issue with distractions is it has a profound impact on our ability to reflect and gain deeper insights into any subject.

What does focused attention require? Being focused requires will power and self-control.  The will power to maintain focused attention and self-control to get it back the moment you detect your mind drifting from the work you are doing. This kind of awareness is called meta awareness. The key to focused attention is training your mind to realize the drift happening and the ability to get in back to object of focus.

Last but not the least, experts in any subject are great at focused attention and are great planners and executors while novices in any subject generally concentrate on getting routine tasks done and are generally people who execute on the ground without really putting in efforts in planning or understanding the nuances of how it works! Be an expert, be Focused!





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Philips Analysis of Needs – Performance Analysis

After discussing Rummler & Brache’s Organizational Analysis, we come to the second methodology of doing performance analysis.  The Philips Analysis of Needs based on upon the following approach:


Performance Analysis Needs - Performance Analysis

In Philips Needs Analysis, individual needs are linked to training needs, the training needs are in turn linked to the job performance needs, which is in turn linked to Business Needs.

Individual/Job holders needs need to be analyzed based on the performance planning checklist discussed under “Planning for Performance Management” post in the blog.  It is very important to track individual performance on a weekly basis to be able to understand the progress being made by the individual and this needs to be done by the immediate manager.  Deficits if any should be analyzed immediately and caused assigned to the same. We will be discussing “Cause Analysis” in detail in our subsequent blogs. Once Cause Analysis of Performance Deficit has been done it is very easy to find out the training requirement for the individual.

The individual needs then need to calibrated against the training needs.,for example, if the individual needs to be working on projects but is not PMP certified or the person has to be working on balanced scorecard approach but does not know anything about finance, etc. This needs need to tracked and recorded at least once in a month instead of waiting until the performance appraisal cycle to completed and then taking action.

Once the training needs have been identified, they need to be traced against the job needs so that there is complete sync in between individual needs, job needs and training needs.  The training needs can be based on skills, knowledge and attitude. We will discussing the same under Kirkpatricks Evaluation level in detail.

The Job Performance Needs as discussed in the previous blogs needs to be based on Business Needs.

The performance planning cycle works best when the planning is done in “Top-Down” manner.  The business needs to be penned down first, followed by department/process level performance planning, followed by individual plans.  When we talk about Philips Analysis Needs, it works best when we use it to decide the kind of training intervention a individual would require for him to perform better.  Whereas “Rummler Brache’s Organizational Level” works best when we are deciding on the objectives as well as when we are tracking performance on three different levels.  It is very important to understand the context against which each form of Performance Analysis Techniques can be used to be able to utilize them in completeness.

We will discussing how intricately Philips Analysis Needs and Kirkpatricks Evaluation Level are linked in my next post!

Happy Reading until then!


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Managing Performance Issues

As discussed in the previous blog, there are two ways of managing performance issues:

  • The first way is by taking a proactive stance by regularly meeting, discussing KPIs, unearthing the red signals well in advance so that counter measures can be taken immediately.  This is the right way for monitoring and should be the preferred way.
  • The second way is by correcting the performance problems as they arise within the organization. This is more of a postmortem which is done after an event is over.  This approach involves identifying the root cause and secondly, implementing a plan of action to correct the problem.

We are going to discuss managing performance problems as they arise withing organization today.

When there is lack of performance you need to do two kinds of analysis

  • Analysis of Performance
  • Analysis of Cause

Performance Analysis: Done to identify the gap between Desired Performance and Actual Performance.  It is important to maintain operational dashboards by linking performance to tangible numbers in order to monitor the same.  We cannot do performance analysis unless we link performance to tangible results.

Performance Analysis can be done in 3 ways:

  • Rummler & Brache’s Organizational Level
  • Phillip’s Analysis Needs 
  • Kirpatrick’s Evaluation Level

Cause Analysis:  Cause analysis is intended to find out the cause for gaps in performance.  There are several ways of doing cause analysis to find out what might have gone wrong for the performance to get impacted in an adverse manner. Doing cause analysis is very important not only from performance management point of view but also in managing projects, teams, etc.

Here is a comprehensive list of techniques that can be used for “Cause Analysis”

  • Fishbone diagram
  • Five by five whys
  • Cause and effect matrix
  • Event and causal factor analysis.
  • Change analysis
  • Barrier analysis
  • MORT
  • Human performance evaluation 
In the ensuing blog, we shall learn “Performance Analysis” In detail!
Happy Reading!

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