Six Principles for Building Accountability and Agreements in an Organization, Michael Soule

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.

In a more mature, complex organization, the community develops a more formalized system of agreements, both about the whole and between the individuals and groups. Over time, a community grows in its understanding and attention both to agreements of all kinds and to the practice of what to do when agreements aren’t upheld.

In a young organization, the challenge is to make agreements conscious. In an established organization, the challenge is to find time to review and renew agreements, so that they are living in the consciousness of everyone involved and can be adjusted to the realities of the current situation.

How agreements are arrived at also makes a difference. For example, if individuals (as appropriate to the nature of the agreement) are involved in creating agreements, then they already feel invested and accountable to the outcome. Understanding this can help organizations build a culture where accountability is not something imposed from the outside, but is living within a group as a matter of organizational integrity.

Here are six areas where clear and shared agreements can strengthen accountability in the organization:

Common objectives, expectations

Make sure that the mission, goals and strategic plan are clear and shared and that people feel connected to it. Keep the focus on the goals more than on personal approaches.

Expectations and individual roles

Make sure that each individual knows what is expected and what their role is and that these are reviewed updated and shared annually. Really strive to live the motto of the social ethic: That every individual feels the whole and that the strengths of each person are acknowledged.

The environment of feedback

Make feedback and evaluation an everyday practice that doesn’t evoke anxiety.

Create time on every agenda and during every week that feedback can happen. Have active peer meetings and observations. Provide training to everyone in giving and receiving feedback (see articles in the resource section).

Agree on support mechanisms

Small peer groups that meet regularly are better than large ones for supporting one another, giving feedback, having meaningful dialog and stimulating creativity. Deal with problems when they arise. Welcome conflict as a path to resolution, create and utilize processes for dealing with conflicts that are safe and accessible to everyone. Put into place mechanisms for keeping track of things that are in process, even if you can’t deal with them immediately.

Reflect and share learning

Be sure to make reflection a regular part of meetings and the school year so that together you can share observations, insights and possible improvements. Make sure you record these, especially for annual events, as they can easily be forgotten over the year.


It is important to recognize and celebrate the things, big or small, that you accomplish. This overcomes the tendency to focus only on the things that aren’t getting done. Appreciation creates an environment that allows for people to feel recognized and connected to one another and to the whole.

Michael Soule