In every organization, there is a significant amount of work that must flow down from the top to the bottom. Generally, the CEO delegates to his or her Vice President(s) or other executive-level staff, who delegate their subordinate managers and so on. Finding the Effective Point of Accountability® (EPA) as work cascades down through the organization involves understanding the specific accountabilities and authorities for each task and the employees who will work on them.
Delegation: Small Points of Accountability and EPATM
Delegating accountability for aspects of the work for which you are accountable does not shift the Effective Point of Accountability®. For example, if the specific accountability is to build a new manufacturing plant and it has to be up and operational in three years, the CEO will likely delegate the task down to a Vice President of Operations. In this case, the CEO would hold the VP of operations accountable for making sure organization meets its goals, and the VP would have the Effective Point of Accountability® for establishing the plant.
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The VP may decide to hire a project manager or an outside firm to put things in place and will most likely break the task up into smaller pieces. By delegating parts of the work to subordinates he or she is effectively creating smaller points of accountability. However, the EPATM for the plant is still positioned at VP of Operations, even as she / he creates smaller or lower points of accountability by delegating parts of the overall task to others.
Challenges: When the Point of Accountability is Too Low or Too High
There are certainly challenges in identifying the EPATM as work flows down the organization, typically arising from inappropriate delegation. In the previous example, the Vice President could make a mistake by delegating the entire task of building the plant to a subordinate like the Director of Manufacturing. This person may not have the capability or competency to deliver on such a complex project. In this case, the VP would not properly employ an EPATM, as the point of accountability has been pushed too far down the chain of command.
The opposite of this occurs when the point of accountability is too high. For example, assume there is a relatively short term deliverable – such as a financial report. If the CEO asks the Vice President of Finance to generate that report and he / she completes the work alone, that task is delegated inappropriately high in the organization. The Vice President could have delegated that work, to a subordinate Director, who would appropriately delegate it to a professional financial analyst. In this case, pushing down the point of accountability to a lower level makes sense. Work that is delegated too high in the organization is an ineffective use of resources and capabilities.
The trick is to identify – based on the complexity of the work – how low in the organization to delegate while still ensuring an effective point so the accountable staff member has the capability, resources and skills to deliver on the objective. When an organization has found the perfect alignment between employee, task and accountability, they have truly created an EPATM that can streamline work and avoid costly mistakes.