blame accountability

To find fault with, to censure, revile, reproach

To bring into disrepute, to discredit

Imputation of demerit on account of a fault or blemish

Liable to be called to account or to answer for responsibilities and conduct, answerable

To be counted on or reckoned


blame accountability

What went wrong?
Who did it?
What’s wrong with them?
How can I keep myself (or ourselves) off the hook?

What results do we want?
How will we get them?
What is getting in our way?
Where did we fail?
Why did people make certain mistakes?
How will we all learn from this?


  blame accountability
Level of problem analysis

“Let’s find out who made that mistake and point the finger at them.”

“Is there anything in our systems and structures which increases the likelihood of error and reduces the chances of creating the results we want?”

Focus Person
“Who did it?” “What you did wrong”
“What happened here?”
Intent Punishment
“It’s your fault and I’ll make you pay.” This can be quite subtle but real nevertheless.
“Let’s see what we need to do to get the results we want.”
Communication One-way negative attribution
“There is something wrong with you and how you are doing things. I have no role in it.”
Two-way mutual exploration
“We’re in this together. Let’s try to understand the situation and make it work.”
Feeling, tone Anger
“I’m mad. It’s all your fault.”
“If I were in your situation, I might be doing the same thing.”
Organizational outcome A culture of cover-up and no learning
“I won’t reveal my mistakes.”
“It’s not worth it to take risks.”
A culture of openness and learning
“I want to talk about this mistake so we can all learn something and do a better job next time.”

Initial contracting conversation

  • What is the nature and scope of the work together?
  • What are the specific tasks we are agreeing to?
  • Which tasks remain to be defined?
  • What are the deadlines?  How realistic are they?
  • Have we clearly identified the desired outcomes at those deadlines?
  • What processes and methods will be used?
  • Do we have any interim check points?  Should we?
  • What is expected at those check points?
  • What are the roles of the people working together?
  • What will we do in the event of a misunderstanding, a lapse in communication or a failure to keep an agreement?
  • Imagine possible breakdowns and identify what to do about them prior to the eventuality.

Prepare for an accountability conversation by shifting your thinking and feeling.

  • Work with yourself
  • Start by remembering that others are acting rationally from their perspective.
  • Remember that you probably have a role in the situation.
  • When you think judgmental and critical thoughts, remind yourself that judgment and criticism make it very difficult to see clearly.
  • What information am I missing that would help me understand their behavior?
  • How might their behavior make sense?
  • What pressures are they under?
  • What systems or structures might be influencing their behavior?