I got an advance copy of a book called “How Did That Happen? (Holding People Accountable for Results The Positive, Principled Way),” and am pleased to see that it was released recently. That means there is nothing stopping you from picking up a copy, right?
Roger Connors and Tom Smith, the book’s authors, have done a very effective job of grappling with some of the key issues that inhibit accountability, and provided some practical, prescriptive methods to help increase the level and consistency of accountability in your organization.
A lot of books about accountability are hard to act upon unless you are the “king of the world” – the head of a company, division, team, etc. This book isn’t like that. Sure, you can wield more might if you’re in charge, but there is a lot of advice in here designed to help you improve your own accountability, and to insist on more accountability from others – whether they are your peers, bosses, or even friends & family.
Rings of Accountability
The authors use a model that consists of an Outer Ring, which deals with setting appropriate expectations; and an Inner Ring that deals with managing unmet expectations. This is all about having an effective “Accountability Conversation” that keeps people clear and aligned about what’s been committed, and what’s expected.
One of the things I really like about this book is the large number of “tests” you can use to determine where gaps exist that may negatively impact Accountability, each accompanied by specific processes and techniques to address any gaps.
There are also a number of stories of accountability in action, which help illustrate the points. These stories helped crystallize the concepts for me throughout the book.
For example, I enjoyed the discussion of the difference between Complete Alignment, and “Complyment,” in which people aren’t fully bought into the mission. I must say, I’ve seen the symptoms of Complyment far more than I should.
Likewise, there are tools to test for “Hands & Feet” and “Hearts and Minds” so you can gauge the level of buy-in and commitment to the things you feel are important.
My favorite new concept: Phantom Reality
Of all the concepts in this book, the one I keep thinking about over and over is “Phantom Reality,” which is “an inaccurate description of how things really are.” This is caused by things like misreading the situation, refusing to believe / acknowledge facts that don’t fit your world view, and poisoning your outcomes by expecting the worst.
I really want to get better at recognizing and dealing with the trap of Phantom Reality, since this is the phenomenon that causes you to get blindsided by things you should have seen coming, but chose to ignore.
It’s not easy to see your own blind spot, but this book provides some tools to increase your chances of catching yourself believing a Phantom Reality.
Customize the tools to fit your style
Before I wrap up, you might be wondering if these tools will work for you. After all, each of us has our own style, preferences, and ability to tolerate ambiguity. You’ll be pleased to know that there are also tools in the book to help you analyze your own management and accountability “style” and preferences, and that you can adopt and adjust the tools differently based on how you work. For example, if you are a micromanager, there are tips to help you tone it down a bit and give people room to breathe; if you’re a hands-off manager, there are tips to help you exert a bit more active control.
I’ve just scratched the surface in this review, but I can confidently recommend “How Did That Happen?” to anyone who wants to up the level of accountability in their world – whether that’s by improving your own skills, or helping others work together in a more accountable way.