Entries by Michael Soulé

Chaos in Life: Cleaning and Caring by Linda Thomas

This article was published in the British journal, Kindling. Contact information is at the end of the article.     Chaos in everyday life – about cleaning and caring Linda Thomas When it comes to housekeeping, the concepts of disorder and chaos often get confused. In our households, order is often related to a certain […]

Exploring Accountability: An Introduction

This newsletter focuses on accountability. It is a topic of conversation and a concern, not only in every Waldorf School, but also in every organization today. Most of the books, articles and essays connect accountability to improving performance and outline processes to help individuals or groups become more accountable by setting clear goals, having clear roles and responsibilities, having systems to evaluate employee performance, giving people incentives, and creating clear consequences when individuals fall short of goals. All of these suggestions can be useful in certain situations, but they fall short of being helpful to those of us working in highly collaborative horizontal organizations.

Accountability, the Individual and Integrity

There are two kinds of accountability in an organization – individual and organizational – and while they are related and stem from the same question of whether we are doing what we said we would do, there are fundamental differences that make it useful to explore them separately. Ultimately they are both connected to questions of congruence and integrity. For the individual, integrity is an inner question. For an organization, integrity is more of a social question that lies in the ways people in the organization treat one another and how they work together to serve the organization’s mission.

Accountability and Agreements

In the history of Waldorf education and of organizational development in general, communities and organizations move through phases of development from the unconscious, implicit and intuitive to the more conscious, explicit and objective. In all the phases of development, the way in which people form and renew agreements is key to accountability throughout the organization.

Members of a small school just getting started, for example, do not usually have the inclination or the time to define everything in detail. In a pioneer initiative, where many things are done together and the group is finding its way, agreements are often unconscious or in response to emerging situations.

Managing Horizontal Accountability, Ray and Elder, IPC

To understand horizontal accountability (HA), it is easier to begin with its absence. When there is little or no horizontal accountability in an organization, people tend to engage in blame, finger pointing, passing the buck and conflict avoidance. To the degree that these are present in an organization, horizontal accountability doesn’t exist.

Most organizations have strong vertical accountability. That is, accountability to management and the chain of command, but that tends to ensure compliance rather than commitment and goal focus. It also does little to address the flow of communication and interaction between those who do the work.

Horizontal accountability can be defined as the degree to which people communicate across the organization, problem solve with all employees and teams, and build accountability for superior outcomes. Horizontal accountability creates trust between employees and management.

Organizational Accountability: One World Trust and GAP

Accountability is a nebulous concept subject to multiple interpretations and understandings: it means different things to different people. According to traditional conceptions, an accountability relationship exists when a principal delegates authority to an agent to act in their interests. Central to this view is that only those with formal authority over an agent – those that have delegated authority to it – have the right to claim accountability. This approach is often used to conceptualise the accountability relationship between politicians and the electorate, or company directors and shareholders. Within this traditional view, holding an agent to account requires clearly defined roles and responsibilities, regular reporting and monitoring of behaviour against these roles, and the ability for principals to impose sanctions for breaches of responsibilities. Accountability is largely seen as an end stage activity where judgement is passed on results and actions already taken.

Faithfulness by Rudolf Steiner

Faithfulness “Let your loyalty to another human being come about in this way:  there will be moments — quickly passing by — when he will seem to you filled and illumined by the true, primal image of his spirit. Then can come, yes, will come, long stretches of time when your fellow-being seems clouded, even darkened.  […]

Performance Management

How does performance management work in a self-managed context? In Orange Organizations, it’s the role of bosses to keep the pressure on employees and to prevent them from slacking off. Top management sets ambitious targets in the company’s yearly budgets and mid-term plans, and these targets then cascade down the organization. It’s part of a leader’s role to always challenge subordinates to do more, to do it faster, to do it cheaper.

In self-managing organizations that have no managers to keep up the pressure, what prevents teams from getting complacent? The short answer: intrinsic motivation, calibrated by peer emulation and market demands.