Design for success – structures for accountability

Do you ever feel like work is a battle of wills – with your will pitched against everyone else’s? Do you have to be constantly vigilant, just to maintain the same standards?

Would you prefer to be putting that energy into improving standards, rather than just maintaining them?

When businesses rely on the quality of their goods for their success – businesses like automobile manufacturers, medical manufacturers and aerospace – they use sophisticated quality systems to define the design and the manufacturing standards for their products. Then they design systems to consistently manufacture to those standards – validated processes that they know will work, time after time. It’s called Quality Assurance and it assures that the minimum level of quality is always met.

It’s only in areas where systems can’t assure the quality of the output that these business resort to quality controls – where they check the outputs to make sure they are up to scratch.

If you feel like work is a battle of wills, then you are probably doing too much quality control in your organisation and not enough quality assurance.

George T Doran, writing in the 1980s, said your requests need to be SMART, like this:

  • Specific – so the outcomes or expected behaviours are clearly defined
  • Measurable – so that your team know when they have delivered, and can be held to account if they fail to measure up
  • Assignable – because someone must be responsible for delivering
  • Realistic – because you can’t make a baby in month by putting nine women on the job, whatever structures you build around them
  • Time bound – because without a deadline, accountability is always something that might happen next week

If you build systems to deliver the outputs you want, then the system puts the pressure on – the system produces the output and you don’t have to use your will power. The system shows everybody – the people doing the job, and you – whether they have succeeded or failed. The system takes the pressure of you and puts it back onto the group who are doing the work.

Think about areas where you feel that you put in too much effort to achieve the result and try to picture how it would have to work if you weren’t there. Remember, you can’t move up to the next level until you have systems in place to cover what you do now.

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