A lack of accountability is failure’s best friend. Imagine an architect is drawing up a design for a skyscraper that would revolutionize a city’s skyline. The design is her life’s work, a masterpiece. Finally, when she is ready to present it and begin creating it, she finds that her sponsors have failed to secure funding for the project. The construction company is leaderless and inept. The skyscraper, intended to be a work of art, is never built. We can create the best action plan in the world, but if no one is held accountable for making it happen, then that time spent planning has been wasted. And what is better than one touch point of accountability? Several touch points. That is why researchers have discovered that cultivating a web of accountability is the key to executing on an action plan. In the diagram below, we outline three potential points on an accountability web: executive leadership, customers, and the researchers themselves. While none of these points by itself is a silver bullet that will guarantee organizational action, they collectively establish a web of influence that helps to create a culture of accountability and follow-through.

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Node 1: Executive Leadership

Once stakeholders have identified key goals and aligned actions, researchers communicate those action plans to the executive leadership of the organization as part of the outcome of the project. This upward communication puts pressure on stakeholders to follow through on their action items.

.Node 2: Customers

Some researchers are helping to ensure accountability by communicating their action plans to their customers. This transparency results in ongoing prompts from the customer that encourage follow-through across the organization. This is certainly a risky approach and not appropriate for all situations, but it is an innovative way that some researchers are holding their organizations accountable.

Node 3: Individual Researchers’ Performance Goals

Action metrics tied into annual review goals can be useful as well. This alignment between performance review and successful implementation of actions reinforces the accountability the researcher has for following through with, and holding his stakeholders accountable for, successful implementation of action items.

Ellen Hart is a Senior Associate Consultant at Vivisum Partners. She specializes in in-depth qualitative research in healthcare and nonprofit fields.

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