WHO

Useful in all manager-employee relationships.

WHAT

The basic idea of the freedom accountability swap is that employees obtain more direct influence and thereby freedom, as long as they are accountable for those activities. This technique increases autonomy by empowering employees. Compared to other techniques, this approach is a smaller hack to create islands of autonomy rather than full blown change.

HOW

Master_Illustrations_for_Shiftgroups.011

The technique enables a revisiting of the employee’s expectations and responsibility, which can be integrated into a performance review. The approach requires:

  1. Sharing impressions: Both employee and manager to take a five-question online survey prior to meeting in order  to share their current impressions of the employee’s current level of responsibility. The survey questions focus on freedom and accountability, but differ from the perspective the manager and employee. Each organisation/department should define their own set of questions, but the steps of a freedom accountability swap survey are:
    1. Freedom

      1. Employee version: Where do you feel that you have the most freedom in your daily work? Name specific projects, tasks, or deliverables where possible and explain why.
      2. Manager version: Where do you think this person currently has the most freedom in their daily work? Name specific projects, tasks, or deliverables where possible and explain why.
      3. Employee version: Where do you feel that you have the least freedom in your work? Name specific projects, tasks, or deliverables where possible and explain why.
      4. Manager version: Where do you think this person has the least freedom in their work? Name specific projects, tasks, or deliverables where possible and explain why.
    2. Accountability

      1. Employee version: Where do you feel most accountable for the results of your work? Name specific projects, tasks, or deliverables where possible and explain why.
      2. Manager version: Where do you think this person is most accountable for the results of their work? Name specific projects, tasks, or deliverables where possible and explain why.
      3. Employee version: Where do you think you are least accountable for the results of your work. Name specific projects, tasks, or deliverables where possible and explain why.
      4. Manager version: Where do you think this person is least accountable for the results of their work. Name specific projects, tasks, or deliverables where possible and explain why.
      5. Employee version: Where do you feel your manager is least accountable to you? Name specific projects, tasks, or deliverables where possible and explain why.
      6. Manager version: Where do you feel you are least accountable to this person? Name specific projects, tasks, or deliverables where possible and explain why.
  2. Sharing results: The manager and employee review each other’s answers before the meeting.
  3. Mapping the gaps: Using the survey answers, the manager and employee each talk about their impressions and identify where there are perception gaps. For example, are there projects, tasks, or deliverables where:

    • the employee thinks they do not have enough freedom and the manager feels they are less accountable?
    • the manager thinks the employee has a lot of freedom, but the employee does not agree?
    • the employee thinks they are highly accountable but the manager does not agree?
    • the manager thinks they are highly accountable, but the employee doesn’t agree?
    • both sides perception of freedom and accountability match well?

    During the conversation, the manager and employee should “map the gaps” to create focus the discussion. Beyond the perception gaps, the conversation should also cover places where freedom and accountability are already considered high as possible models for working.

  4. The swap: Next the manager and employee should analyse each key project, task, or deliverable that have come up in the conversation and reconsider what each side can offer that will increase freedom AND accountability for both sides.
  5. Review: The output of the ‘swap’ conversation should be used as a starting point for future iterations of this process.

WHY

The purpose of this technique is to provide a framework for conversations about freedom and accountability and by practising the technique gradually create autonomy in the organisation through a formalised process.

When an employee has higher levels of freedom to define ‘how’ work gets done, and in return is expected to be accountable for their work, higher levels of employee engagement are observed.

SOURCES

The Freedom / Accountability Swap by Chris Grams