I recently conducted a Leadership Challenge workshop for twenty senior leaders & board members. We discussed Extreme Ownership (click here to see the video) and how we can use it to lead our teams to victory in today's VUCA environment.
The central message in the video is that imbuing a strong sense of total ownership and accountability within the psyche of employees is crucial. This takes time. It requires the change to occur gradually, evolving from a change that is primarily developmental to one that is transitional and finally to one that transforms the organization in its entirety.
This transformation is contingent on the level of readiness of acquiring new knowledge regarding the importance of total ownership, producing knowledge relating to the belief systems that are appropriate within the context organization and integrating this belief throughout the organization. It depends on how well the organization in question is able to optimize its knowledge management processes of knowledge acquisition, knowledge production, and knowledge integration in order to imbibe new insights and beliefs that essentially form organizational knowledge.
Developmental change involves employees focusing on their shortcomings in leading themselves towards becoming better at what they do. This requires guidance by way of feedback and work on that feedback to initiate and sustain changes that develop them as better leaders. Such developmental change is temporary and the tendency to revert back to their default leadership approach is strong unless these efforts are sustained through the acquisition of feedback on a regular basis.
As the developmental change is sustained, transitioning towards a different belief system altogether attuned towards being accountable for action taken and taking ownership of results obtained becomes possible. This transitional change is only possible through the reinforcement by real-life experiences at work, leadership by example and a joint commitment by peers to adhere to this belief under all circumstances. Efforts to support this transition through constant engagement through knowledge sharing is crucial at this stage.
When this transition occurs and the sense of total ownership and accountability permeates the entire spectrum of activities undertaken by all employees, transformational change will emerge in the people in terms of how they act, think and emote. This change will require a reassessment of the overall structure and systems to be in line with the cultural shift that occurs. This will mark the emergence of a culture of accountability.
Organizational knowledge management capability is one of the key requirements that drive such an organizational transformation. The availability of knowledge management expertise required to engage stakeholders to build on their cumulative knowledge and belief systems regarding accountability and total ownership is necessary. This requires the development and adoption of practices that encourage sharing of knowledge and beliefs about the importance of total ownership through storytelling, promotion of activities that encourage like-minded people to connect and collect tacit knowledge about how to develop new norms that promote total ownership within the organization in question.
The integration of these new norms into the fabric of organizational practices has to be very closely monitored. This calls for everyone concerned to regularly own up to one’s mistakes and seek avenues for improvement at every available opportunity by sharing knowledge. This practice has to be regularized to a point where it becomes routine. Only then will the transformation from a culture of blame to a culture of accountability will begin to emerge.