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.

The dynamics of accountability in horizontal organizations are different. Individuals have many more meaningful relationships and are expected to carry more responsibility for the whole organization and to be responsive to collegial feedback. The typical measure of accountability -- that of improving performance -- needs to be balanced with the concern for developing the capacities of individuals. In our endeavors, it is a central purpose of our work. This difference is fundamental. Ultimately, in healthy horizontal organizations, individuals become more and more capable of guiding their own development and incentives, and consequences are more intrinsic.

The collection of articles in this newsletter explores what accountability means in a collaborative organization: what is required of us as individuals; how do we need to organize and manage our organizations to support and encourage accountability; how do we find ways to assure that our organization is accountable to those it serves.

This is an ongoing exploration that hopefully can lead to individuals gaining new insights into ways to understand accountability and bring health to our organizations.

The following articles explore the realm of personal and organizational accountability.

The One World Trust report on accountability in international NGO’s offers some insightful aspects of what makes an organization accountable to its stakeholders. While its audience is organizations working in the international arena, its principles are helpful in thinking about how we as a school engage and inform those whom we serve – families and the community at large. The article is an excerpt of the full report, “Pathways to Accountability – The GAP Framework.” The full report and the excerpt are both available in our resource collection.

In an excerpt from his important book, Reinventing Organizations, Frederic Laloux describes how organizations pioneering new horizontal forms deal with performance evaluations for groups and for individuals. It is an interesting exploration of how previous practices of control are transformed in new organizations.

 “Managing Horizontal Accountability” is an article by Darrel Ray ad David Elder that shares insights about how performance-focused horizontal teams and groups achieve their goals through four basic working principles. It is a quick read and while it was written for different settings than schools, it provides some useful tips for all of us.