The Entropy of Accountability: A Short Story

The word entropy means “the unavailability of a systems thermal energy for conversion into mechanical work.” It also means “a gradual decline into disorder.” For our purposes here, let’s start with the second definition.

At one point in time, people were held accountable for working, and that work produced results. Things were going along fine, and then the accountability, little by little, was removed. It was an intentional decision not to hold people accountable for the work or the results. Instead, it was the success that was being had that caused the leaders to change their approach.

First, the meetings ended. The manager was too busy to have the meeting, and so were the people that worked for him. Everything was working so well, missing a meeting or two wasn’t really going to change their results. And why bother people with interruptions?

Then, not too long after that, reporting stopped. No one was required to speak out loud what they did or did not do. Why should they have to? The managers and leaders had a dashboard, and they could see hundred of metrics, and as long as you can count the things that can be counted, all is well. These leaders did not remember that most of what really counts can’t be counted, and the most powerful forces in the Universe are invisible to the human eye.

Then, success ended, and what once knew only up, soon knew only down.

A change was necessary. Everyone recognized what needed to be done. Doing what needed to be done proved to be much more difficult than recognizing these things. The people who needed to change and produce results were told that it was important. They were provided training, in hopes that it would rekindle inside them what had created success in the past. None of this worked, and no one understood why.

One brave leader asked, “Are they being held accountable for the work that they should be doing?” Another leader replied, “I don’t want to be a micromanager. I am not that person. I want my people to take initiative, to figure things out for themselves.”

Decay doesn’t happen over night. Accountability once lost, takes more energy to recover than the energy that would have preserved it.

Filed under: Leadership

Anthony Iannarino Head Shot

Follow me on your favorite social networks:

Share this page with your network