There’s a blog post and comments over at Linked-In about the difference between accountability and responsibility. Here’s what I said…
I agree with Thomas Dodds (a commenter there) who says:
“So I TAKE responsibility and I am HELD accountable.”
In my work with the Responsibility Process I think, write, and teach everyday about the difference between Responsibility and Accountability. I’ve been studying individual and shared responsibility for 20 years and wrote the book “Teamwork Is An Individual Skill: Getting Your Work Done When Sharing Responsibility.”
Enough of that.
A few things I’ve learned
1) As a society we are pretty loose about how we use the language of Responsibility and Accountability. Yes, the words are interchangeable, so I don’t mean to argue how anyone else should use these two terms. However, we also link them together all the time. For the last year or so I’ve used a google bot to search the web daily for the words Responsibility and Accountability used within the same short phrase. And everyday my google reader is full of blog entries and articles quoting someone saying something like “when is so-and-so going to take responsibility and accountability!”
2) While I acknowledge the words are used interchangeably, there are two important meanings at work, and it is those meanings I care about: There is the process of making, keeping, and managing agreements and expectations in any relationship (business management or otherwise). And there is the feeling of ownership for one’s life, for situations (including one’s accountabilities), and for r-e-s-p-o-n-d-i-n-g when things go wrong.
I prefer to use the word Accountability to refer to making, keeping, and managing agreements and expectations. And I prefer to use the word Responsibility for the feeling of ownership.
Here’s a fun way to see the difference: