Any organization has accountability holes, areas where nobody really owns the space. Sometimes these are true ‘grey areas’, sometimes are very black, true black holes or Bermuda Triangles where things get lost.
They seem to be either empty (of bodies, of ideas, of projects), silent Chernobyls avoided by the corporate citizen, or the opposite, full of stuff that nobody wants, idea orphanages. They are to organizational and business life what structural holes are to networks, those areas of the network with very low density.
Many organizations go on and on about needing more accountability, which is very often a linguistic proxy for ‘for goodness sake, do what you are supposed to do’.
HR complains that nobody knows whether employer branding is theirs, or if it is part of Corporate Communications. Internal communications thinks that Employee Engagements should be theirs, but HR pays for the survey. Strategic planning is driven by Finance but they don’t really feel they should other than taking care of the numbers. Organizational life is often a life of corporate ping-pong.
The above are not, by any means, the most problematic cases one can find because, one way or another, somebody may be doing something about them, reluctantly or not.
But there are many other situations where the-indecision-is-final seems to be the permanent state of equilibrium. Here are the black holes.
Interestingly, in the English language, the word accountability is often linked or even proceeded by the word ‘taking’. So, taking accountability, literally means that, an active appropriation effort, not passive receiving. Unlike ‘empowerment’, or being empowered, that always sounds as something you get from somewhere.
The cure for accountability holes, Bermudas and Chernobyls, is pure Occupy-The-Street activism. Bring the tent and occupy the space. Chances are the people on the 10th floor with the organizational charts have no clue as to what to do with those accountability holes, that is why (sadism excluded) they have not put names and bodies and reporting lines.
In organizational life there is a surprising lack of Horror Vacui (fear of empty space). Ideas and potential projects can be left wandering around, nomadic visitors, always avoiding those accountability holes which remain, oh, well, a hole.
There is however, a possibility that at some point, somewhere with decision power, the tolerance reaches a threshold point and the territory becomes occupied by decree. Be careful what you may wish to be waiting for, you might get it. But in many cases this is only happening because the power holder suffers in fact from Horror Vacui and can’t stand the hole. Not to draw disrespectful parallels but, in my previous life as a psychiatrist, Horror Vacui was a feature of seriously ill schizophrenic paintings in which every single inch of a canvas given to patients to express themselves by drawing stuff, gets completely filled in. No inch left blank. Only schizophrenic patients master that.
I am told often of an ill constructed mixture of prudence and respect, avoiding stepping into somebody elses shoes, as justification for not ‘stepping in’. But the problem is that those shoes are nobody’s and very often, they have not even been taken, ever, out of their box.
In my experience, I would go the opposite route: occupy! You’ll be surprised how many people feel relief. OK, perhaps some are a bit jealous that you have done it, but, hey, that is a precedent to copy.
Seriously, buy the tent.
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