Saturday, April 4, 2015

Responsibility Is Not Accountability

Accountability is not the same as responsibility. Accountability is an overarching customer expectation of an organization to deliver high quality service. Accountability is individualized, while responsibility is generalized. Accountability requires answers to facts, while responsibility does not necessarily require answers and can be delegated downward in the organizational structure. Accountability is pre-determined, while responsibility can be assigned after the fact. Responsibility becomes the blaming-game and does not function well to ensure delivery of high quality safety or best possible quality in customer service.

Responsibility is delegated down in an organization.
One day a traveler arrived at the hotel where he had booked a room online and included in the comment field that he had a pet. When he arrived at the hotel the customer service representative informed him that pets were not allowed at the place. Fair enough he thought and requested a refund of the deposit he had made at the time of online booking. A refund of pre-pay was not the responsibility of the hotel, and the manager threatened to call the police and have the guest removed if he did not leave without having received the refund. In the travelers mind the hotel should live up to accountability and refund the cash, since they are receiving it from the online booking site. On the other hand, the hotel management applied the responsibility principle that it was not their responsibility since the traveler had not booked directly with them.

Some time ago a student discovered that his law online study course required in-depth knowledge of the legal system, the law itself and understanding of the principals applied to practical situations. The student had researched this online study-program, which described the steps in learning the law and then applying the law. When the program was delivered the student discovered at first glance that this course was not the one he had requested, but a different law course which required in-depth knowledge of law principles. When the student addressed this to the principle and requested withdrawal from the course, the principle requested a meeting with the parents of how to proceed. During this meeting the principle made a statement with pride that it was not his responsibility to be a guidance councilor for this extra curriculum courses, but that the student and parents had responsibility to request appropriate courses. The responsibility principle was applied by placing the blame on the student and transferring the blame down the organizational chart after the fact.

Responsibility is to take on the task. Accountability is to get there as planned.
An aviation organization operating solely under the responsibility principle is setting up for failure in providing high quality customer service. However, when an airline, airport, pilot or other flight crew are applying the Safety Management Principle of Accountability they are setting the bar at a level determined to deliver service above and beyond customer's expectations.