Accountability Charts are a great way to map out and define individual roles within a company. Clearly defined roles are a critical factor of success for any business — a lack of defined responsibilities can wreak havoc on the operations side of the company, resulting in missed deadlines and unsatisfied customers and employees.
Often, if more than one person is responsible for a specific outcome, no one is actually responsible for it. Employees will assume that the other person will handle a certain task, causing the ball to get dropped. This can lead to employees playing the “blame game,” which can create tension within your organization.
Conversely, the lack of clearly defined roles can result in certain individuals being overwhelmed with responsibility, as they take on too much work in an effort to do everything themselves. This can lead to your most productive employees burning out or resenting their team members, as they feel like they are not supported by the rest of the organization.
In fact, more than 50% of organizations worldwide struggle to retain their top-performing employees — often because these employees are overwhelmed and do not feel appreciated for their efforts. Not only is it expensive to replace these top-performers, but the constant churning of employees leads to more significant gaps in productivity.
So, how can you avoid this chaos and confusion?
How can you prevent dropped balls and overlooked tasks?
And how can you ensure your team has the support they need to meet their deadlines?
The answer: create an Accountability Chart that clearly defines the roles and responsibilities of each member in your organization.
What is an Accountability Chart (and how does it differ from an Organizational Chart)?
Organizational Charts display each member of your organization including their title, who they manage, and to whom they report. While these charts can be incredibly useful in determining who has authority in certain instances, they often fail to delegate specific tasks and responsibilities with absolute clarity.
That’s where an Accountability Chart comes in — this visual display maps out specific tasks and responsibilities, so you always know who is responsible for specific deliverables and who you can contact for support.
Let’s use myself as an example. I’m a Senior Copywriter with eRational — on an Org Chart, I would be listed below the Head of Marketing or the Head of Content Creation and above the Junior Copywriters who I manage. Unfortunately, this structure doesn’t specify what I’m actually supposed to do — it doesn’t place the responsibility on me to complete specific tasks.
However, in an Accountability chart, titles are much less significant. In this structure, I would be included in more instances with more clearly defined responsibilities:
- Blog Creation (where I report to the Head of Marketing),
- Webinar & Social Content Creation (where I report to the Webinar Product Owner),
- And Client Campaign Messages (where I report to the Account Director for each specific client).
As you can see, the depth and detail of an Accountability Chart leaves very little room for interpretation of responsibilities. Rather than reporting to a single manager, this structure is much more fluid — I know exactly what I am supposed to deliver and to whom I report for each individual task I complete.
This is how you can leverage individual employees across multiple different products, projects, and departments simply by clearly defining their responsibilities.
Why is it important?
Accountability charts leave minimal room for interpretation — they ensure absolute visibility across the entire organization. You can get as detailed as you want with an Accountability Chart, as it gives you the opportunity to map out every single task your team must complete to keep your business running.
This visibility minimizes confusion, which results in satisfied employees who always meet their deadlines and who know who to contact when they need support. Rather than being focused on titles and organizational hierarchy, Accountability Charts are more focused on actually getting things done.
This structure also encourages employees to pursue their core genius — rather than being stuck in one position with one supervisor, employees are free to exercise their core expertise whenever the opportunity presents itself.
Not only does this spark their creativity — as employees can actively search for areas where they can contribute their skills — but it fosters a community of collaboration and innovation within your organization.
From a data perspective, this collaborative environment also helps eliminate data silos, as employees are no longer isolated in their individual roles. As employees are collaborating across multiple different areas of the organization, data can be shared with ease, and actionable insights can be determined thanks to increased data visibility.
How can you create your own Accountability Chart?
There are many different ways you can structure your Accountability Chart, and every business will take a unique approach depending on their size and their offering. Often, companies will take a hybrid approach, combining two or more of these formats to create an Accountability Chart tailored to their unique way of doing business:
- Functional — This structure groups individuals based on their function-specific tasks. For example, a team may be grouped based on their marketing tasks: the manager will be at the top of the chart, followed by the person responsible for website design, video production, video editing, copywriting, copyediting, social media management etc. Each task reflects a single deliverable and who is responsible for delivery, but the same person can be responsible for multiple tasks and may play several different roles.
- Project — This format breaks down the specific tasks involved in completing a single project. It often includes people who would traditionally be in several different departments. For example, a project may include a project leader, followed by the client success manager, the lead strategist, a copywriter, a video producer, and an accountant. Individual employees may be involved with multiple projects at once (so you may only have one accountant in the organization, but they are a part of every project).
- Product — Similarly, this structure focuses on the specific tasks and responsibilities within a single product. For example, eRational’s Webinar product includes: the product owner, followed by the copywriter, video producer, video editor, social media manager, email outreach specialist, and client coach. Similarly to the project structure, a single employee can play multiple roles and take on several deliverables. However, rather than working on multiple differing projects across the entire organization, they will work on multiple projects within the same product.
- Geographic — Finally, you can organize your Accountability Chart based on geographic location. In the case of companies with multiple locations, you may have several teams that are very similar in structure and have identical deliverables — however, each team is only responsible for clients in their specific region.
It’s also important to be flexible — as your organization evolves, you may need to adjust your Accountability Chart to reflect your new approach. While it may seem like a lot of work to get started, the organizational clarity gained from this kind of exercise will pay dividends in the future.