Increasing accountability using machine imposed contracts
Accountability is an issue in any management system. Any management systems without managers struggle and need to find different ways to perform all the tasks and authorities that used to
be done by managers. One of the biggest struggles is holding people accountable. Managers can easily hold people responsible but create a slew of other problems, but we all know that finding people accountable is a common problem in most organizations. As you’ll read below, managers are humans and they subject to the same flaws people have.
When we are taking the manager away from the picture, the first inclination is to enable people that are part of a working group to hold each other accountable. This approach will usually come with an incentive and compensation model that should motivate people to keep each other accountable for the success of the group. While this model might work for small groups, it is falling apart for big groups. I’m using “might” because after taking this approach I learned that this approach is asking people to do something that most of us prefer not to do, to raise a conflict.
Raising a conflict is releasing the daemons of chaos into our work routines and environment. Even if the intentions are coming from the right place, the result is chaos that will introduce a change that will increase the chaos. More chaos that we need to deal with will enforce us to think, to put into a test our primary belief system, which can end up with significant chaos that will start even more substantial change.
In a nutshell, any chaos can start an endless loop that will create change and chaos. Opening the door for chaos is opening ourselves for a challenging period that will end up with a better situation, but with a very high price to pay, so we prefer not to open the door to chaos and not to raise a conflict. We will keep the conflict to ourselves, hoping that someone else will do the work for us. Yes, this “someone” is the manager, the manager that does not exist. As a result, conflicts rarely raised as they started. Those conflicts are not going anywhere. Those conflicts will grow and explode as a major crisis.
(I won’t get in this post into the damage and issues of a manager raising the conflicts.)
When you realize this human behavior, you understand that you need to find different ways to raise conflicts (including holding people accountable). Luckily for us, humans don’t like to raise issues and disputes, but they love to resolve them. Therefore, if there is a way to create an awareness of the problem not by a human, the result will be a group of people that are trying to find a solution. Resolving an issue is something that most of us like to do, so a solution is guaranteed!
This insight helped me to realize that we can use pre-defined contracts and computers to raise a conflict. A contract can be any definition of what “makes” someone not accountable (number of negative feedback, three periods of negative metrics grow, etc.), and the implication of breaching the contract (removing a person from his role). A contract can be monitored and executed . The conflict raised by a computer is leaving people to fix the problem.
This model is not perfect, but it is better than relying on people to start conflicts and ending up resolving a big crisis, that could by a machine be solved much more easily when the crisis was a small issue.