3 Ways to Hold People Accountable to the Strategic Plan

October 19, 2021 Jamie Notter

Accountability often gets raised only after we have missed our targets, and, frankly, it’s a little late at that point. So don’t start “holding people accountable” at the moment that you realize your three-year plan is coming to a close but you haven’t hit your targets!. As I pointed out earlier this year, I define accountability as a system that ensures agreed-upon results. When we coach leaders in our Priority-Based Execution system, we make sure accountability is established from the get-go. It involves the following steps.

  1. Build a model

First, instead of mapping out a three-year sequence of activities to reach your strategic plan targets, we help you build a model. If you really want to double your membership in three years, then what’s the model for getting there? What’s the new value you’re delivering? What would need to be in place three years from now for that to be a reality? Maybe it’s a new major program or expansion of some current offerings, but paint a picture of what needs to be a reality then. That’s really all you need for your three-year model. Then we drop down to annual and quarterly planning to come up with key initiatives and activities.

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2. Rethink your metrics

Second, we help leaders to re-think how they use metrics. Too many associations are just a little bit lazy on metrics. Everybody tracks them in one form or another, and there are a lot of “standard” ones like revenue or membership trends, but to build a good system of accountability, you need to be more nuanced and intentional. Like if you want to double your membership from 10,000 to 20,000 in three years, don’t just set targets of 13,333 at the end of year 1, 16,666 for year 2 and 20,000 for year three. Go back to your model—if new programs need to be built, then create some metrics to make sure you’re on track to develop those programs in time to support the membership growth. Metrics should shine a light so you can see when you’re off track before it’s too late. We help leaders set the right metrics and track them weekly.

3. Get better at change

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Third, we help leaders get better at change. Accountability is about ensuring you get the agreed upon results, and it is highly unlikely that the model you built for getting there is going to be perfect. So part of your system needs to be continuous learning and change. As your metrics tell you that you’re off track, your people need to lean into that and quickly find ways to tweak your model and do things differently. But if, in your culture, “accountability” means “blame for missing your target” then people will avoid those conversations, and you’re sure to miss your targets in the end. We help leaders shift their culture so learning and change are valued.

Accountability is not that hard, as long as you put the right system in place. If you want help with that, check out the coaching we do in our Priority-Based Execution system. (Side note: if you’re a small-staff association leader, check out our cohort-based course that will help you do the same thing.)


Photo by Isaac Smith

Jamie Notter

Jamie is an author and growth strategist at PROPEL, where he helps leaders integrate culture, strategy, and execution to achieve breakthrough performance and impact. He brings twenty-five years of experience to his work designing culture-driven businesses, and has specialized along the way in areas like conflict resolution and generations. Jamie is also the co-author of three books—Humanize, When Millennials Take Over, and The Non-Obvious Guide to Employee Engagement—and holds a Master’s in conflict resolution from George Mason and a certificate in Organization Development from Georgetown, where he serves as adjunct faculty.
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