Creating a Culture of Accountability

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California builder Keith Christopherson wanted to close the gap between his company’s strategic plan and the actual outcome, so he met with a management consultant two years ago to identify areas needing improvement.

May 01, 2002

A Code of Accountability
1. Setting commitments others can rely on

2. Planning for all identifiable hurdles or possible setbacks

3. Taking appropriate action to avoid setbacks

4. Assessing all possible ways of recovering from unforeseen setbacks and timely responsive action

5. Personally accepting the consequences of one’s decisions

6. Learning from the setback and taking action to avoid setbacks of a similar nature in the future

This definition of personal accountability created by the management of Christopherson Homes Inc., Santa Rosa , Calif., 18 months ago sparked a cultural change at the company.

California builder Keith Christopherson wanted to close the gap between his company’s strategic plan and the actual outcome, so he met with a management consultant two years ago to identify areas needing improvement.

“I was going through an exercise of why we missed deadlines, why we weren’t meeting our schedules — the battles most builders fight,” Christopherson recalls. “The more we thought about the situation, it came down to behavioral issues: meeting commitments, accountability.”

So he and his management team created a code of personal accountability that each Christopherson Homes e-ployee is expected to practice. Keith Christopherson says the improvement has been noticeable both internally and externally, but particularly on the internal side.

The new accountability is most apparent during weekly team meetings when project time lines are reviewed, Christopherson says. Missed commitments become apparent, and the person responsible is asked to talk about what happened.

“It is not demeaning, but it is eye-opening,” says Christopherson, whose Santa Rosa-based firm had 269 closings for $130 million last year. “Everyone in our company knows that if one person falls off step, we risk not being able to meet our business plan.”

One of the most interesting lessons learned from implementing the code is the improved clarity of language that team members use when discussing action items, Christopherson says.

“It is difficult to achieve this culture,” he explains. “You have to look at language and how people speak and the types of answers they give you. When people say ‘I think’ and ‘we should’ instead of something more specific, you have to stop people and hold the line right there.”

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