Jane Seiling


Moving from Individual to Constructive Accountability

Executive Summary: 
A qualitative study with standardized questions (yet flexible) was undertaken to identify (1) what accountability currently looks like in organizations today, (2) introduce the concept of constructive accountability (CA) into the thinking of top organizational members, (3) identify the interviewees’ sense of the concept’s usefulness in the organizational context, and (4) request the interviewees input on how CA could be introduced into today’s organizations. The process included face-to-face and telephone conversations with twelve currently in a managerial role and two former managerial members of twelve organizations. The outcome suggested that, although some organizations are actively and purposely accepting the concepts of participation and collaboration (and many are not), accountability remains in a traditional mode. According to the interviewees, accountability is most often experienced as demeaning, punitive and “something they do not want to do.” Accountability has not moved into the paradigm of member involvement and the movement of decisioning lower in organizations. CA was acknowledged as “a new way to look at accountability,” useful, and preferred — yet how to get to being a CA organization was a dilemma for these executives. One organization offered a model for moving toward CA in organizations.

Jane Galloway Seiling is a consultant, writer, and speaker in the area of labor-management relationships. The founder of Business Performance Group in Lima, Ohio, she is an associate of The Taos Institute and chief editor for the Taos Institute Focus Book series. In addition, she is an associate of Kodiak Consulting in Dallas, Texas, and Asia-Pacific Cities Forum in Warren, New Jersey.