Skip to main content

PBM 101: Why accountability in an organization is important

  1. Insights

PBM 101: Why accountability in an organization is important

In this Principle Based Management 101 series, we’re unpacking mental models, ideas, and tools you can use to level up your work.

This article was previously published by Stand Together Foundation.

Principle Based Management™ provides a holistic approach to making decisions, solving problems, and creating value for individuals in your community, team members in your organization, and society at large. ​​​​​​​​​​​​​It is rooted in proven principles that have fueled the ongoing success of Stand Together and our partners. In this Principle Based Management 101 series, we’re unpacking mental models, ideas, and tools that you can use to reach the next level in your work.


Abraham Maslow established that the role of management is to create the "social conditions in the organization so that the goals of the individual merge with the goals of the organization." Accountability is one of the essential factors that makes this possible. 

Accountability occurs when a person bears the consequences (good or bad) of a decision or action. It starts by establishing clear decision rights and building a culture of Principled Entrepreneurship™. This helps avoid inaction, abdication, plunging, or finger-pointing.

Why is personal accountability important?

Personal accountability is an unpopular concept these days. As economist Thomas Sowell observed, "We seem to be getting closer and closer to a situation where nobody is responsible for what they did but we are all responsible for what somebody else did." 

Accountability, properly understood, is to take account of what happened and appropriately recognize those who contributed positively or negatively to results. We always want to understand the full context of the outcome and whether or not behavior was consistent with guiding values when determining the appropriate response.

What does organizational accountability look like?

In an organization, accountability for positive outcomes could lead to building greater capabilities resulting in additional opportunities. For an individual, it could lead to expanded and new opportunities to contribute and increased rewards. We recognize and reward contributions that build capabilities and generate results, including past contributions that haven't been fully rewarded. And we don't penalize well-designed experiments that fail, as they create knowledge leading to better decisions. 

Accountability for negative outcomes could lead to a change in direction, structure or personnel, or even abandoning an initiative. For an individual, it could lead to additional coaching and feedback, adjusting responsibilities or, when the person isn't a fit, leaving the organization. In such cases, it gives individuals the opportunity to start with a clean slate where they can better contribute. 

For us to succeed, every initiative needs an owner with clear responsibility who is held accountable for its results in harmony with our principle-based framework. Ongoing coaching and feedback help employees understand what is and what is not working. The goal is to help individuals learn and improve. Providing feedback, especially when related to performance gaps, is not enough. Accountability includes the necessary follow-up to ensure sufficient progress is being made and determine the appropriate action when it is not. 

As Stand Together founder Charles Koch wrote in Good Profit, "Holding ourselves and others accountable also requires courage and intellectual honesty, especially when we are faced with the unpleasant task of dealing with the performance or behavior issues of a coworker. A culture that lacks accountability lacks integrity and cannot survive, let alone thrive."

Learn more about Principle Based Management and how it can help you transform your results.

© 2024 Stand Together. All rights reserved. Stand Together and the Stand Together logo are trademarks and service marks of Stand Together. Terms like “we,” “our,” and “us,” as well as “Stand Together,” and “the Stand Together community,” are used here for the sake of convenience. While the individuals and organizations to which those terms may refer share and work toward a common vision—including, but not limited to, Stand Together Foundation, Stand Together, Charles Koch Foundation, Stand Together Trust, Stand Together Fellowships, and Americans for Prosperity—each engages only in those activities that are consistent with its nonprofit status.
Jump back to top