“Build a Culture of Accountability: Five Ways to Enhance the Level of Accountability in Your Organizations” (Market Watch, August 18, 2008).

The headline might grab your attention, but the first paragraph is old, tired, hostage-oriented rhetoric: “Holding people accountable for results is the foundation of an organization's performance; it's management 101. Yet it appears there is a gap between knowing (this) and doing (this).”

This may be management 101, but it is an articulation of the problem, not a way to increase accountability.

The idea that we can hold other people accountable is a myth of gigantic proportion, and it is a serious impediment to business success. To think we can hold anyone but ourselves accountable denies a fundamental reality of human existence. Those we think we are “holding accountable” are deciding for themselves what to make of our demands: 

 They choose the appearance of compliance – appearing to be accountable while skating as close to the edge of non-compliance as possible. Outright insubordination may be too risky, but protest is at the heart of their action.