Who Owns it?

Many of my clients have voiced concern relative to lack of accountability in their company, school or non-profit organizations. They lament to me about lack of ownership, true buy-in from their teams, and taking responsibility for the end game throughout the organization. Recently, Lynn Blodgett, president and C.E.O. of ACS, a Xerox company based in Dallas, Texas, was interviewed by Adam Bryant of the New York Times.

Mr. Blodgett’s background and the entire interview is interesting. I particularly found his statement on alignment and accountability relevant and directly aligned to my company’s philosophy. He states:

“We need to focus on getting everybody’s interests aligned on the same side of the table, including the client’s. Because that’s not normally how it is. You have the client with their objectives. You have the employee with their objectives. And then you’re over here trying to make nice with everybody.”

So, how do you do that? It is often easy to say and hard to truly make happen. ACS has attempted to push the accountability down to the lowest level of the organization. I quote Mr. Blodgett:

“One of the ways that we do it is we drive the P & L as deep into the organization as we can. We have a P & L at a customer level, that’s mandatory. We have to be able to see how we’re doing with that customer. A lot of companies can’t do that. In our business we drive the P & L down to the people who are actually doing the work. So if we can make a P & L for a $10 million business, we’ll give that guy the P & L and he’ll have profit accountability, revenue accountability and customer satisfaction accountability. And as they grow, they make more money. That results in a higher performance, in my opinion. So you give people control, hold them accountable, give them control of their resources, and then monitor what they do. And if you do that, you’re going to tap into, in our business, the highest level of drive — entrepreneurial drive. I want ACS to look like a whole bunch of sole proprietorships. Because that way, people are thinking to themselves, “If this was my money, if I was doing this, would I really spend it? Do I have to buy that computer right now or can I get by with my one that’s two years old?”

I completely agree with this philosophy. Whether this be at a Boys and Girls Club, a charter school, a division of a Fortune 500 company, or a venture-backed start-up; a key secret to success is creating a culture which drives accountability down to the individual level – where everyone takes ownership for how money is spent, investments are made, and strategic decisions are discussed and owned. Who owns it? We do.