Joint Accountability in Startups


Within the context of startups, shared knowledge, and resources, open communication, relationships, collaborative ways of working together, and collective responsibility are vital to success Accountability is the element that encourages the above behaviours.

Joint accountability can be defined as an ongoing process of conversations during the accomplishment of work that creates the relationships and drives the team members to become collectively responsible for the outcome. Foundational to success in a startup and critical to any team is accountability.

Traditional accountability has an individual focus rather than a focus on collective responsibility. As part of efforts to organize and perform in the workplace, the startup team members must take responsibility and be accountable to and for the work, themselves, and to others. When a staff member is assigned something to do, it is often one person?s job to do it and he or she is accountable for accomplishment.

Sometimes a situation does not appear to encourage group responsibility, yet an individual sense of accountability to the group remains. Being assigned to a task suggests that the person knows how to do what he or she is responsible and accountable for or how to find out how to do it. If the assignment is not accomplished, there may be consequences for the person or the team or both.

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In a startup, team members don?t have the luxury of tossing work between team members or point fingers, in a nutshell, work needs to be done. Traditional accountability is important but insufficient for startup teams, where each individual has to shine alone and yet needs to be synced in with the team. Within joint accountability, no one person is responsible or accountable for an activity. All team members contribute and are significant to what occurs. Individual team member commitment still underlies joint accountability behaviours.

Examples of the practising joint accountability as an ongoing process of accomplishment in startup teams include the following planned and unplanned activities:

  • Participating and contributing fully to meetings and conversations, in both physical and virtual space, that is directly and at times indirectly connected to the team.
  • Being mindful of noticing and hearing ?something different? or ?something the same? and asking questions to clarify or challenge assumptions.
  • Providing personal resources and seeking or applying external resources, both sought (such as seminars, conferences, journals, magazines, or Web sites) and unexpected (accidental learning?s), that may help to question assumptions and expand thinking.
  • Discussing what could be done to make better sense of a past or current situation and how to best move forward.
  • Sharing knowledge (through calling, e-mail, and so on) regarding challenging issues and to cyber brainstorm ways to approach the issue. Cyber brainstorming is activated by offering a brainstorming question and asking all team members to individually offer their own thoughts without boundaries about what can be done to address an issue. These thoughts are offered to a collecting agent, who combines them for offering back to the group for discussion. Cyber brainstorming has proven to be more effective than face-to-face brainstorming by invoking stronger individual brainstorming first
  • Advocating for the team, team members, and its decisions as reliable and productive
  • Committing to ?I: X by Y?: Each team member (I) personally commits to what he or she will do (X) by when (Y). If at any time, the team member becomes aware that he or she cannot deliver X by Y, he or she commits to informing the relevant teammates immediately. Timely delivery is important to the work of others and the team?s outcomes
  • Organizing additional meetings either in person or virtually to discuss, update, or plan around a specific emerging issue.
  • Creating deeper relationships. This can be done through casually exchanging relevant stories, metaphors, and humorous anecdotes.
  • Contacting key stakeholders to solicit feedback and collaboration on potential impacts of anticipated activities or new thinking. The constituent members construct ?Effective teams. Member activities, contributions, and relationships determine the success or failure of the startup team.

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Recognizing the role of joint accountability in everyday work contributes to the opportunity and ability of the startup team to reach the project and team goals. It will not be incorrect to say that, the progress on projects in startups is highly dependent on the degree of joint accountability in the team.

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