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Please read the following article on accountability. It is the text of a talk given by James P. McLaughlin, UPS President (1974), at the 1974 Special Management Conference. Be prepared to discuss this article in class when you attend HSTS.
Each year, since the first Plant Managers’ Conference in 1941, we have met to discuss the problems of our business. During our annual preparation we assign teams to study areas of activity such as operations, delivery information, or customer service. In this and other ways we probe constantly for suspected trouble spots. And always, there are enough trouble spots to keep us occupied. We eliminate one, and a couple of others appear to command our attention.
If we measure our inconsistent performance against perfection, we have cause for discouragement. It is true that, compared with some other service companies, we are doing a good job. But there isn’t a person in this room who wants to settle for that, or who believes we should be satisfied to match the performance of others.
We at United Parcel Service have chosen to be a special kind of company. Consequently, we search diligently for ways to retain our unique service identity. The bigger we get, the greater the chance that our system will spring a service leak. And the harder we must work to prevent it. How then, can we come to grips with this ceaseless struggle for excellence?
Fortunately, we find there is a common thread that runs through all our problems. I say fortunately, because this suggests that we can focus on a single matter to bring about change. This common thread is definable. It is identifiable. It is traceable – to accountability.
Where we have problems, we find lack of accountability. The problems exist because someone failed to do a job and was allowed to get away with it. There was a failure in accountability. Accountability is the glue that holds everything together, that plugs the performance leaks in our system. I suggest that if we really understand what accountability is, and we really know how to get it, we will have taken a giant step toward development of a more trouble-free service.
There are many aspects to accountability. It is the commitment we each make to ourselves whether we’re operations or staff people, to do our jobs competently, efficiently and completely.
It is the pledge to our boss to perform well the task he or she has given us. It is the commitment we make to our organization, that through good work we shall enhance its reputation.
It is a pact with our partners that we will contribute to our common goal of establishing the finest parcel service that is devisable. There is no mystery about accountability. I think we all understand what it is. And I believe we all recognize that it is the basis of every good performance. If we know all this, and we agree on the value of accountability, then why don’t we have more of it? Perhaps the reason is that confusion exists about how accountability is established.
Accountability is like a hothouse orchid. Absent certain environmental conditions, it will not grow. By this analogy I don’t want you to think I’m advocating the application of heat to subordinates to produce accountability. Nothing could be less productive. Accountability in its most effective form is basically an attitude. It is the individual’s desire to perform an assigned task in the most expeditious and thorough manner possible. It is a UPSer’s determination not to accept mediocre results.
It is self-motivation. It is acceptance of personal responsibility. Clearly, we can’t get this kind of accountability by simply putting the heat on a subordinate. Heat may bring momentary results, but a manager who pursues this tactic, to the exclusion of all others, certainly will fail in the long run. Real, sustained accountability has to come from within the individual doing the work. There is an old adage that you can drive a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. So it is with accountability. You can drive UPSers to the waterhole of accountability, but whether or not they drink is their own personal decision.
There is no question that managers or supervisors being pressured will give off signals of accountability. But unless they have committed themselves to accountability, the signals they emit will be covering up a less than acceptable job. This suggests that accountability cannot be imposed from the top down, that you can’t order accountability like you’d order a suit of clothes.
And, certainly, accountability does not flow upward automatically, like a carnival balloon. If it did, we would have less need to maintain 10-to-1 ratios for supervisors. Accountability is a two-way street. Each manager has to create the environment in which accountability will flourish, so that each associate reporting to him or her makes a commitment to performance within this favorable atmosphere.
A minimum, five conditions must be present before any manager can expect full accountability. And each manager is accountable for establishing these conditions in his or her area of responsibility…
First, the individual being held accountable must know precisely what job he or she is charged with performing, and the minimum acceptable requirements (MAR) for that job. If the individual does not clearly understand what he or she is being asked to do, then the manager cannot, in fairness, expect accountability. So, the individual must have complete understanding of each job to be performed in order to be held accountable for MAR.
Second, the individual assigned a responsibility must have the capacity to do the job. If training is deficient, or if there is confusion as to where to get help, then an individual cannot be held accountable. Each manager must be careful not to hold accountable a person who may have an intense commitment to performance, yet lacks the skills or knowledge necessary to be successful.
Third, the individual assigned a job must understand and agree with his or her manager’s standards for an acceptable piece of work. These could be quite different from the individual’s own ideas of excellence. The manager is accountable for setting the standards and winning the acceptance of them by each individual reporting to him or her. Fourth, a person held accountable for a job must be granted all necessary authority to complete the task. If people make a commitment, or accept responsibility for a certain result, they must not be restrained from completion of the job through inadequate authority. On the other side of the coin, they cannot delegate responsibility for which you, as their manager, are holding them accountable.
Fifth, there must be a mutual understanding between the managers and their supervisors about how accountability will be demonstrated. This may take the form of interim reports, commitment meetings or MAR audits.
If these five conditions are not present when any one of us makes a job assignment, and we insist on full accountability, we are asking for trouble. There is no way more certain to destroy morale and kill the incentive to perform, than to insist on accountability without establishing these conditions.
Managers or supervisors will react to resulting failure in several predictable ways. They will become frustrated or angry at the apparent unfairness of the situation. They will experience a loss of confidence there because, in some unaccountable way, they were not able to satisfy the manager even though they tried to do the best possible job. They will be apprehensive when given the next assignment. In order to get ahead in the company, they’ll feel pressure not to blow this one.
I am sure that each of you can think of many other reactions they would have. But here is the important point: by failure of the manager to make certain that these five conditions are present in a job assignment, he or she has unintentionally nibbled away some of the subordinate’s commitment to accountability. In summary, when an assignment is given, the individual must fully understand the accountability, and the manager must determine capability.
There must be a mutual understanding of standards applied to performance. The subordinate must have appropriate authority. And finally, there must be comprehension of how the report-back on the job will be handled.
I said earlier that these five conditions were the minimum required to extract accountability from a work relationship. They are minimal because basically they are the mechanics of accountability. Any manager can readily identify the presence, or absence, of these conditions, and if necessary modify his or her approach to job assignments. However, true accountability requires still another ingredient: Motivation! While these five conditions provide a climate in which motivation can thrive, they will not necessarily encourage it.
Motivation is the tinder in the fire. But how do you strike the motivational spark in the managers or supervisors reporting to you? Obviously they will work to satisfy personal goals, such as increased responsibility and compensation, and a higher rank in management. And beyond that, they are motivated by a desire that associates think well of them, that they are identified as performers and doers. Every person has pride, and to a greater or lesser degree a sense of personal worth will compel him or her to produce work that satisfies personal standards, if not the manager’s standards.
Thus, a manager seeking accountability from a subordinate, already has a lot of motivation waiting to spring into action. There is a latent desire within each manager or supervisor to do a good job. The problem is how to unleash this desire and focus it on the tasks at hand.
There is no simple solution to this problem. Unfortunately, the motivational spark is struck differently in each individual, depending upon individual characteristics and conditions surrounding the job. As managers it is our responsibility to discern the method by which to strike the spark. We have observed that there are astonishing differences in the accomplishments of some supervisors doing the same job, working under the same manager and using the same facilities. The basic ability of these supervisors frequently is similar.
We therefore must conclude that our management ranks are burdened with a frightening waste of ability and missed opportunity that produces “almost successes.” These people “almost” become leaders, they just miss. We can reduce the percentage of “almosts” by holding ourselves accountable and by holding accountable those who report to us. We must help more of these “almosts” become successes so they can contribute to the perpetuation of UPS management.
Success escapes some people more for lack of direction than for any other reason. Most “almosts” are not lazy. Usually they put in excessive hours of: indecision, disorganized work, paper-shuffling and over attention to minor details. They ignore the practice of priority planning, management commitments and MAR audits. People do not flourish in this kind of work climate only because their managers are not holding either themselves or their subordinates accountable. Their motivation has been dulled through lack of success.
Motivation and accountability are so interlocked that we cannot have one without the other. Therefore, we must not only employ techniques that will induce motivation, but we must coach our junior managers in their use. While there are no sure-fire formulas available to engender motivation, there are conditions that we have identified as being present when high motivation and accountability exist.
These conditions must be established by the manager. We know that the supervisor must look upon his manager as a leader before he or she will follow in an all-out commitment to accountability. Unless the manager is credited with sincerity, integrity and professionalism, motivation and accountability will be of a relatively low order. Studies indicate that managers or supervisors who really perform, does so when they perceive the presence of the following conditions:
First, they must recognize that their manager has a high degree of technical competence and is expert in the work that he or she is assigned.
Second, they must know that the manager has high standards. They must believe fully that the individual to whom he or she reports has set perfection as their performance benchmark.
Third, they must know that their manager demands full compliance with these standards.
And fourth, they must know that the manager has the capacity to determine that there has been adequate performance. In other words, they must believe that they can’t get away with a shoddy work because their manager will detect nor accept it.
Accountability, if it means anything at all, poses the possibility that a person can be removed from his or her job for consistently producing unacceptable work. Sanctions should not be imposed often. If a good job in selection and training has been done in the first place, the removal of anyone from his or her responsibilities should be a rare event. But, unless removal is a possibility, you don’t have accountability. It is foolish and self-deceiving to pretend otherwise.
As I said, our people already possess an inclination to perform well. This inclination will be further encouraged if we give our people leaders whom they believe to be competent, and whom they know will enforce UPS standards. When you put it all together you get accountability. An organization pursuing common goals, energized by a get-it-done-right attitude, is an unstoppable force.
What I have offered here are not theoretical suggestions, still subject to proof. These are the demonstrated conditions that accompany and instilling in our organization a drive for excellence and accountability. All of this suggests that a dialogue must exist between the boss and the supervisor–that we must talk to our people. How many times have we heard that before?
We tend to accept the idea that managers from several levels should discuss problems and work out solutions. But I am afraid that some of us still think that this is a management approach that works out only with managers. On the contrary, it is a management approach that works with people, no matter what their position in the company.
Managers who are in line jobs, particularly, may say: “I don’t have time to reason with my people. If I want to get the job done, I have to tell’ em to get hopping, then see to it that they do.” What is the effect of this approach? As an example, you may have people loading packages into a trailer all night. They know that they’re supposed to brick-load and utilize the cube.But do they really understand what niche they fill in the overall UPS operation? Do they appreciate how essential their role is to good service, including their responsibility to control damages?
They won’t unless their boss tells them. If loaders don’t believe that what they are doing is important, then they cannot commit to doing it well. To them, the tasks are not essential. Their commitment to performance will be as limited as their concept of their work. The well managed loader will be striving to contribute to good service. The poorly supervised loader will simply be breaking his or her back moving packages. The difference in the motivation of these two individuals will be substantial.
Each of us must never forget when we strive for accountability, we strive for excellence. We have made tremendous additions to payroll in recent years. These large numbers of new people have substantially increased the task of instilling in our organization a drive for excellence and accountability.
Dr. Milton S. Eisenhower made this point at the beginning of his 10 years as president of Johns Hopkins University when, confronted with soaring enrollment, he said: “Our strength cannot be in numbers, it must be in excellence.” A quick scan of history reveals that our society has experienced many convulsive changes. The civil rights revolution and our youths’ mass rejection of military draft are a couple of examples.
You need only glance at a recruiting poster to appreciate the extent of the change. “Today’s Army Wants to Join You,” says the poster. Many in this room can remember their first days of basic training in another era. You stood uncertain and uncomfortable in your new fatigues and heard a noncom deliver a get-acquainted talk that probably went something like this: “I’ve never seen such a sorry bunch of bums… I’m going to break every last one of you…” And for weeks he tried his darnedest to do just that.
The recruit wasn’t considered a human, and was even less than a number. Unquestioned obedience to orders was demanded. The youth’s understanding of objectives was neither required nor desired. It was an approach to managing people that satisfied military needs, where you didn’t want anybody thinking or exercising initiative.
Few exposed to the military experience look back on it with fondness. Today the military is attempting to function with volunteer force. The dehumanizing practices of the past have gone the way of the M-1 rifle. Now, “Today’s Army Wants to Join You.” There is a message for us in this poster, because we too are a volunteer force. The message that the days are gone when a manager, supervisor or hourly person will accept without question an order-and-obey relationship with their supervisor.
Our people come from a more sophisticated society that has a more permissive atmosphere. They are better informed. They won’t settle for just knowing “what.” They also want to know “why.” We must satisfy their need to know why if we are going to motivate them to accountability.
At United Parcel Service, we came to the conclusion many years ago that a person should know “why.” While this conclusion may seem obvious, it is apparent from the state of our accountability that some of our people never got the message. Or if they did, they didn’t pass it along. Today, more than ever, you don’t order, you explain and ask. Any manager who says he or she hasn’t got the time to be people-oriented, to explain the job, set the standards and require that they be met, will fail to get accountability.
It is much more productive to make a job assignment under the conditions that I have outlined here, and get performance with accountability, than to simply order a job done, then waste time patching up sloppy effort. In a small group meeting years ago, Jim Casey said: “I sense lately we are not as close to our people out in the field as we used to be. Our managers and supervisors have to be made to feel they are the company. We ought to see what we can do to get closer to our people. The success of the company has been due to working close to our people. Think about the time ahead when old-timers will not be around.”
You will agree Jim’s remarks were pertinent. We must win the trust and respect of our people. We must treat them with firmness, but with friendly consideration, if we wish to generate the enthusiasm that produces accountability.
When the boss depends upon harassment and heat rather than discussion to get results, he or she becomes an authoritarian figure like the sergeant in basic training.Authoritarian managers create a gulf between themselves and their people, across which there is limited communication, and then probably only by shouting. Managers have to become a part of the team. They must work in harmony with their managers and supervisors to assist them in every way possible to have successful work experiences.
Today’s successful managers are adherents of the idea that they must hold both themselves and their people accountable. Inculcating this principle in our young and newly assigned management people is tough duty. Our society seems to be producing too many young people who come to the labor market with the belief that success can be attained without hard work. Some of them view the tightening of accountability screws as work that is too hard.
As managers, we must slice through this casual approach to work that many young people acquired in their childhood through regular performance of daily household chores. We have to give them the habit of getting things done… and done right. Because many of our young people have to be taught the basic good work habits, it is necessary that we all practice management by commitment. This may sound like easy work, but in actuality it is a most trying business.
Only dedicated partners will persevere and bring these young managers and supervisors to experience the success of getting a job done right. Successful and happy work experiences satisfy the needs of the individual, the requirements of United Parcel Service and the expectations of our customers — none of this is possible without accountability, that driving desire to do a job right. Accountability is contagious. We must make certain that everyone at United Parcel Service catches it.
Need a summary analysis for corporate school Please read the following article o
Need a summary analysis for corporate school