Structures of accountability

In my 2013 review, I wrote:

What broke me out of [my despondent unmotivated funk mid-summer-2013] was when I realized that sometimes even things I really enjoyed doing, like blogging, I wouldn’t bother to do if I didn’t kind of force myself to do it. Turns out motivation is complex.

I have once again found myself blogging right now because if I don’t, I owe beeminder money. I feel frustrated—I have only an hour or so left at this point and while I have many posts in progress and many others that I want to write, none of them will be ready in an hour. So instead here’s a brief rant on accountability.

The E-Myth on org structures

I’m listening to a fantastic audiobook right now called The E-Myth, E being short for Entrepreneurial. It’s all about how to do a small business as an entrepreneur, rather than a technician. There are some other insights from this book that I’m excited to blog about, but those are on the longer-than-an-hour list.

One of the chapters I was listening to today was talking about the importance of accountability when setting up a business. The author describes two brothers who start a business together. In one version of the story, they take turns doing everything and it’s great for awhile but then it breaks down because nobody is responsible for anything. In the other version, the two of them sit down at the beginning of their business development process and lay out a basic yet fairly extensive organizational structure, including a COO, VP of Marketing, salespeople and accountants. They write a description for each position.

Then, they assign an employee to each of those roles and have that employee sign off on their position contract. Of course, the only options available are themselves. So they each have multiple roles, and report to each other and themselves. But the key is that now they’re accountable for several distinct outcomes. Then, the process from there is to systematize the lower-level roles and hire someone into them, promoting themselves as they go along.

I think this is really cool and makes a lot of sense.

One bit I thought was strange though was a remark the author made, which was “all organizations are hierarchical”. I actually blurted out “pfft, what?” when he said that.

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