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Accountability in the workplace is integral to the success of modern business organizations.

Alas, many people misunderstand what this term even means. We argue it’s inseparable from good management and governance. Namely, accountability is no longer synonymous with the scourge of punishment and iron-fist-style rule.

The concept has evolved into a proven mechanism for setting organizations up for market triumph. At its core is the willingness to accept responsibility and obligations. So, it’s more of a carrot than a stick.

Alas, wielding it is always easier said than done. People exhibit varying degrees of discipline, responsibility, and communication skills. In addition, business projects tend to be composed of many moving parts.

It’s up to business leaders to figure out how to make all the different pieces of the puzzle fall together. If they can’t pull it off, nobody can.

Task management is the proper response to most of these dilemmas and challenges. It’s a practice with an impressive track record across industry sectors. Here is how to harness its full power and gain an edge over your competition.  

Accountability Has to Mean Something

Accountability is a key measure of performance, a pathway to taking ownership of work.

The first thing to realize is that you cannot measure what you don’t track and observe. In other words, accountability doesn’t exist in a vacuum, as some ever-elusive ideal. It must be rooted in business practices, leadership style, company culture, and organizational structure.

Moreover, it’s necessary to embrace the modern concept of accountability, as a top-down positive reinforcement and encouragement. On the employee’s end, the situation seems clear. When a task is accepted or delegated to a team member, that person becomes accountable for it.

The truth is it’s a bit more complicated than that. Nobody can be held accountable unless it was obvious from the get-go what they needed to be accountable for. Promoting accountability comes through established and pre-negotiated set of rules, standards, and practices.

What is more, accountably can’t rest on wishful thinking. It’s in our nature to (occasionally) shirk from responsibility. That is when we need a bit of chase and push to stop the corner-cutting.

Every bit of individual accountability adds up and sets the stage for the organization as a whole to become accountable. If you simply declare everyone is accountable, it can turn out that nobody is accountable.

We want to steer clear of this disastrous scenario at all costs.

Like a Well-Oiled Machine

Moving on, we need to examine how task management fits the accountability picture.

Well, this management staple refers to various activities that break down projects into smaller, more manageable bits— tasks. These tasks are overseen across their entire lifecycle and hold both management and employees to high scrutiny.

As such, task management can involve planning, testing, tracking, and reporting. Furthermore, it aims to define the priority status of tasks, as well as the time, effort, and financial resources required to see them through.

Tasks are building blocks that make or break projects. Knowing how to manage them across shifts holds the key to completing them on time and with flying colors. Not only that but you can refine the workflow and ensure maximum productivity.

The next benefit is that you are able to maintain a balanced workload and smartly delegate tasks. This kind of sound management is incredibly valuable because it empowers teams to cope with mounting pressure, fatigue, and burnout.

You unlock the full potential of the workforce, hitting tight deadlines and smashing your business goals.

The beauty of it is that instead of working harder, you’re working smarter. In addition, but you make decisions based on relevant facts and figures, not some gut instinct.

These are all ways in which task management benefits all stakeholders and reinforce accountability.

Accountability and Task Management Go Hand-in-Hand

To accommodate accountability and task management, you have to structure your whole organization around them.

Both of them have to be permanent arrangements, not one-time deals.  Thus, it’s best to formalize them with performance plans, job descriptions, onboarding guides, strategies, and other documents.

When it comes to task management, the process revolves around identifying, tracking, and carrying out various tasks in short time frames (on a daily basis), mid-term (weekly or monthly), and longer horizons (annually).

Simple to-do lists no longer cut it. For instance, you want to be able to alter the order of tasks, as well as to group them together, especially when you have tasks with similar requirements.

As you can imagine, these goals are tricky to accomplish with paper-based tools. Things easily get messy and spiral out of control, especially when managing multiple or large projects. Accountability inevitably suffers.

What you want is immediate, complete, and real-time view of all the priorities and delivery dates.

Tech Tools of the Trade

Hence, more sophisticated tools are called for tracking tasks from beginning to end.

The good news is they come in various shapes and forms. Online task lists and calendars are an obvious choice and a real step up from conventional to-do lists.

Their main advantage is the ability of employees to access information and resources from virtually anywhere. What is more, they are able to provide input, make edits, and monitor progress in real-time.

As for team leaders and management, they outline tasks and distribute the workload. They also strive to spot bottlenecks, overdue obligations, and other hurdles before they can derail the project.

Apart from rudimentary tools, we also have project management platforms that take things further.

They include a multitude of handy features that automate task management. These are due dates, priority levels, tags, commenting, etc.  

Slack, one of the most popular collaboration tools has individual and group messages as well.  They can serve as a means of generating feedback and concordance. The platform also features a load of settings and options that make business life easier.

You can see what others are up to at all times while keeping other communication channels unclogged. Hence, nobody can get away slacking or not knowing the requirements. It’s all out there, perfectly transparent.

Rounding up the Arsenal

Furthermore, task management software is another tech avenue to consider.

It gives you everything you need in one toolbox. You can easily add tasks to multiple projects and keep everyone working toward shared goals. On top of that, you may rely on robust reporting and tracking tools.

It takes only a few clicks to perform most of these tasks.

This unified system light years ahead of outdated task management, which employs a bunch of scattered tools, unproductive meetings, and other time-wasters.

We should also mention tools such as Kanban boards, which are used for visualizing tasks and workflows. The management here revolves around placing cards in different columns.

They correspond to tasks that are in progress, completed, and yet to be tackled (to do, doing, done).

Boards hold the answers to all the important questions team members may have. In case they do not satisfy your needs, make use of customization options to tailor the dashboard.

The list of possibilities doesn’t end here, so shop around for the best tools. Weigh the pros and cons of various tools in the market. We would advise you to stick to those with a minimum learning curve and intuitive interfaces.

Playing it Smart

No amount of workspace technology makes up for the lack of proper human involvement.

It’s absolutely crucial to get everything right from the get-go. The consequences and rewards must be clear and related to completion or failure to complete certain tasks.

You can set S.M.A.R.T goals to storm through this early stage. In case you are not familiar, the acronym stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely.  You can put it all in black and white to boost accountability further.

Secondly, define the main roles and associated responsibilities. Provide personalized instructions and directions where needed. Utilize reporting features to establish a system of who responds to whom.

Designate people in charge of authorizing, assigning, delegating, and approving tasks. You probably need several layers of permission in place.

Along similar lines, start managing tasks in boundless and groups. Bear in mind the order of priority can shift from one day to another. Urgent priorities always arise and they must not throw you off balance.

While going about these priorities, foster the utmost level of task visibility. Have a repository of all negotiations and every shared file.

And whatever you do, commit to one management method, which is to say one platform or app. It provides a shared pool of knowledge and resources, taking collaboration and accountability to the next level.

Nuts and Bolts of the System

The ultimate goal of task management is to spend the right amount of time on priority work and assign the right people to handle it too.  There should be enough incentives to ensure these outcomes.

Yes, it is wise to reward top performers and let them serve as an example to their colleagues. At the same time, avoid alienating slackers— give them a chance to make amends and grasp the “why” behind their lousy performance.

Speaking of which, you should remember poor accountability isn’t always the culprit behind all your problems. It might be employees simply lack effective training or skills (soft or technical) to nail the tasks. At other times, lackluster leadership is to blame.

After all, it’s business leaders that determine who has too much work and who can take on more. With just a few clicks, it can reassign the tasks to achieve a more balanced distribution.

Beyond that, be careful about assigning open-ended tasks. More often than not, they muddy the accountability situation and do more harm than good. You are better off setting specific deadlines, provided you set them right.

Another risk you could run into is the lack of any paper trail. This happens due to overreliance on digital tools. Mitigate it by initiating documentation processes and policies.

With that in mind, use digital solutions to open the channels of communication and facilitate knowledge sharing, as well as peer learning. Build a vibrant company culture around collaboration, togetherness, and transparency.

Stay in tune with feedback from people closest to the work process. They usually have invaluable insights you can use to fine-tune the system and program tools such as alerts and reminders.

Offer your own feedback and coach staff whenever possible. To cover even more ground, integrate learning and development objectives into periodic performance reviews.

Full Steam Ahead

This kind of task management infused with accountability is a tall order.

Yet, it brings many benefits you cannot afford to forgo.

Task management has a positive impact on workforce morale, motivation, and engagement. Employees are in-the-know and enticed to work at their best. On the level of a business organization, this rising tide yields better employee retention rates.

We have also shown you how done right, task management works wonders in terms of improving accountability. People have complete information and all the tools in front of them. We’re talking about alerts, triggers, notifications, and other hallmarks of modern task management.

They help everyone notice looping deadlines and finish everything on time. In the process, you can save a tremendous amount of time and minimize wasted effort.

So, if you ask us, it’s time to take decisive action. Do away with errors in communication and project management faults. Maintain the focus on performance, not people as individuals. No need to get personal or let personal issues seep into the workflow.

You will get more things done every day and destroy all the obstacles on the road to business greatness.

Accountable Management at its Finest

Accountability comes to life somewhere on the convergence point between processes, communication, and productivity.

Ensuring it is a daunting task, which you want to approach with a sense of clarity, management prowess, and strategic planning. The first thing to do is draw lines in the sand to set expectations.

Be specific about what you want people to do. Deploy clear business processes to shed light on the path ahead. Document and then assume control over the entire workflow.

Once that is done, you can equip yourself with essential digital tools to streamline task management. Ideally, you’re able to see and manage all work in progress in one place.

This is how you look over people’s shoulders without them even noticing. But, the trick is not to keep them in the dark! You have to promote accountability, visibility, and transparency across the board.

So, communicate all the moving parts of the accountability framework, including roles and what they entail. Encourage teams to really own and take responsibility for this framework.  See to it nobody is overwhelmed or underutilized, but pulling the right amount of weight.

These are surefire techniques to make sure everyone is on the same page. Following these should be able to optimally allocate your human resources and operate at peak efficiency.

Written By
Daniel Bishop started off his career in digital marketing by working for a few local companies. After a year or two of learning different aspects of the job, he moved on and worked for DesignRush as a content advisor. Right now he's working for ReallySimpleSystems as an Assistant Editor and Marketing Consultant. Other than that I enjoy good coffee and Otis Redding.

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