I think that the debate is important because there are many times when a discussion with an employee ends with: “Yup, I didn’t reach my goals, I am sorry, I take full responsibility”.
So what does that mean? Where exactly are you taking the responsibility to? Is there a place where you keep all you unmet responsibilities? What would happen if your child ran onto the road and was hit by a car? Would you still just say “I take full responsibility”?
- Responsibility can only be used for future actions, that is why we have a 200% responsibility rule.
- Accountability is used after the fact, and there is a debt to be paid.
So we don’t allow “taking full responsibility” for past actions, if you didn’t reach your goals, you are accountable, you have to pay.
You can pay by taking responsibility and find a way to fix the mistake (note this is a future action), or by paying you dues in salary or bonuses (and if you are not up to the job, leave it for someone who is)
So you take responsibility of your child and make sure he never runs onto the road, if he does, you are accountable. You can now take responsibility and rush to the nearest hospital, you now must pay the price.
This is why we all take 200% responsibility and everyone is accountable for his own commitments (see how integrity management works). Managers are also accountable their teams commitments and goals.