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Today’s management literature seeks to hold entire organizations accountable. Take, for example, the public holding a corporation responsible for an oil spill (BP, anyone?). However, this does not translate to the accountability framework within the company, where multiple points of accountability simply cannot exist. For example, how well is that sign in the kitchen asking everyone to wash their own dishes working?

Current best practices are that there should be a single point of accountability as low as possible in the organization. Single points of accountability keep organizations effective and efficient. We also need to think about the lowest point of accountability, which keeps decision-making as close to the front line as possible to keep the organization nimble. Until now, there has been little guidance on determining exactly where this single point of accountability should sit, and that is where the Effective Point of Accountability®, developed by Effective Managers™ comes in. We have developed an approach that can help organizations ensure that work is delegated to the right person in the right position.


From the perspective of an organization’s Board of Directors, the CEO is accountable for everything. But of course, the CEO can’t possibly manage everything; thus he or she delegates responsibilities down the chain of command. The term Effective Point of Accountability® (EPA) refers to the lowest single point of accountability – the lowest position that has the capability to do that work. There’s a reason it’s referred to as an Effective point of accountability: if an EPA has been achieved, the delegation process has aligned a perfect match between three equally important factors:

  • The individual: capability, skills and knowledge, at the right level within the organization;
  • The complexity of the task; The accountability, authority and resourcing to accomplish the task.
  • An EPA ensures the task has been delegated to an employee at the right level: not too high nor too low and that they have the tools, authority and know-how to succeed.

The approach helps to ensure that by delegating accountability as low as you can in the organization, without going so low as to assign it to employees who are incapable of succeeding at the task, the single point of accountability is as close as possible to where the work is being done. This gives the person who is accountable for delivering results the authority to make decisions that are consistent with delivering those results.

Effective Point of Accountability® in Action

To illustrate, let’s examine the task of managing the biweekly payroll for employees. This particular job is delegated down the chain of command from the CEO to the CFO to the Director of Payroll, who is equipped with the knowledge, experience, training and authority to accomplish this task. This is a well-planned EPA in action. It would be ineffective to delegate this task any lower, to say, a payroll clerk or an intern, who does not have the capability or the authority to get the job done. Likewise, the task not sufficiently complex to remain at the CFO’s level; that position needs to focus on the bigger financial picture rather than day-to-day occurrences. If the CFO were to do the work it may be well done, but the cost to the organization would be unnecessarily high.

Take it a Step Further

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However, simply because the CEO has delegated task, this does not excuse him or her of all accountability. Should something go awry with the monthly payroll, the board will look to the CEO for answers; from their perspective, the CEO is accountable for this as well. The same can be said at all levels of management.

The Accountability and Authority Framework: A Necessary Link for Cross Functional Work

The CEO is accountable for ensuring that this overarching framework is in place and that accountability and authority is well understood. How work flows down the organization is one thing. Ensuring that this does not create and reinforce silos is another thing.

The CEO must also ensure that the framework enables clarity of delegation so that personnel are aware of their accountability and that their authority is consistent with the actions of others within the organization.

In the same Payroll example, if a Director in Operations didn’t inform Payroll of a new hire, who is accountable for the employee not being paid? What if Payroll was informed but after the deadline for the next check run and the Payroll manager refused to accommodate? What if the Payroll manager did accommodate but had to miss another deadline on a project for the Director of Finance as a result of the extra work?

An accountability and authority framework for cross functional work provides the “rules of the road” for how we work together. It also provides a mechanism for understanding who is accountable for these many inevitable trade-offs that must be made: the role that is the Effective Point of Accountability®.

If the accountability and authority framework isn’t in place, the Effective Point of Accountability® cannot exist.

An EPA is cemented in the clear context, authority boundaries, and cross-functional support that the CEO implements. The advantage of an EPA is that it ensures efficiency and effectiveness for the specific task: the right employee will do the work and be held accountable for it. And this minimizes confusion, miscommunication and delays.

To learn more, watch the free recorded webinar on our YouTube channel. We address the subject in this article PLUS the key steps you can take improve accountability in your team and in your organization.

WATCH NOW: What Is the One Word that Can Turn Your Organization Around?

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Yes, accountability matters. Intuitively we know that when people are held to account performance is better. But what is accountability? How does an organization “become” accountable? Bottom line – how can you use accountability to improve the performance of your team and your organization?

We cover these questions and more in this Webinar using The Effective Point of Accountability®, developed using research-based and field-tested approaches.

In this Webinar you will learn:

1. What accountability is (and is not) and why it is important in organizations.
2. How you can assess the current state of accountability of managers in your organization.
3. The key elements of an accountability and authority framework and how you can put them to use immediately.

This Webinar will be of interest to all managers of managers in organizations, and will be of special interest to CEOs and Heads of HR.

WATCH NOW: What Is the One Word that Can Turn Your Organization Around?