How an accountability chart can streamline your business strategy

By JJ Rosen August 8, 2023
How an accountability chart can streamline your business strategy

This article originally appeared in The Tennessean.

“Nobody can do everything well. Would you want to have Einstein on your basketball team? When he fails to dribble and shoot well, would you think badly of him? Should he feel humiliated? Imagine all the areas in which Einstein was incompetent and imagine how hard he struggled to excel even in the areas in which he was the best in the world.”      

-Ray Dalio, Hedge Fund Manager and Author

I was reminded of this quote (one of my all-time favorites) during our company’s strategic planning retreat last week.

We were doing a review of our “accountability chart.”

“What the heck is an accountability chart?”  you may ask.

I first came across the concept in the book “Traction” by Gino Wickman a few years ago.  As its name implies, an accountability chart defines who is responsible for what. It gives clarity to each person in an organization regarding what they should be focused on and what tasks they “own.”  It’s a great way to ensure that nothing falls through the cracks.

Some see it as an “org chart” on steroids.  But in reality, it’s so much more.

Part of the process of building an accountability chart is making sure the right people are in the right seats.  Does the person who is accountable for marketing have the skills, interest, and capacity to succeed?  Is the HR person the best fit for the role?

It requires everyone in the room to have a healthy dose of humility.  It’s not about how smart or talented anyone is, but whether they have the knowledge and talent to fit the role to which they are assigned.

In our company, if I am the Einstein of finance, that doesn’t mean I am the best fit for sales.  And to be a good leader, it’s important for me not only to accept that, but to embrace it both for my own job satisfaction as well as for the greater good of the entire company.

As we reviewed our accountability chart, a few interesting revelations came up.

  • Here and there, we had people who were masters of the skills needed to succeed in their roles, but they were accountable for too many things.  Even Einstein could fail if he put too much on his plate.
  • We had one situation where someone had the skills and capacity to easily meet their accountability goals, but their interests had changed over the past year. They were ready for a change. Discovering this was helpful for the employee and the company.
  • We realized that as a leadership team, our accountability chart gave us a ton of clarity. However, we had not done a great job of communicating who was accountable for what to the rest of the organization.  We decided we needed to bring the same clarity we felt at the management level to everyone in our company.

By the end of our meeting, we had a good handle on defining who was accountable for what and what we needed to do moving ahead.

So, it’s true that Einstein was great a physicist but likely would not have been the ideal pick to play center on a basketball team. But as Einstein would be sure to point out, that’s OK — everything is relative.

JJ Rosen is the founder of Atiba, a Nashville custom software development firm and IT support company. Visit for more info.

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