Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Creating a culture of accountability

So it occurred to me recently that at CSU we struggle to implement effective change. Why would that be and then it struck me. We have two major institutional impediments. First, we do not have a culture of accountability and second, we do not have a culture of transparency.

Let’s talk about the first one. When our last president arrived in 1998, I advised her that if she wanted a lasting legacy at CSU, it would not be built on new buildings; it would be built on changing the culture of the university, specifically engendering a culture of accountability. Accountability in my world is not punitive, it is relational. I hold people accountable because I want to have good relationships with them and that means that we both take responsibility for who we are in the relationship that we have whether that be personal, social or professional.

Accountability is about the agreement, the choices that I make, the consequences of those choices and the cost that is paid. Simply put, I agree to do or not do something. Accountability is taking responsibility for the choice that I made, the intentional or unintentional consequences of my choice and the cost that is paid, by me or others. Some agreements are implicit, like by accepting a position at the university, I agree to do my job. So with that agreement in place, I look at the choices related to job performance.

For example, who was responsible for the relocation of the university Child Care Center? And why has that relocation resulted in a significant decrease in enrollment of children? Who was responsible for a contract that has the university paying for heat in the temporary location? And who is responsible for the office being in one location and the child care facility being in another location which creates hardship for the working moms who are trying to complete degrees? How many of those moms left the university as a result of inadequate child care? All of those choices have had consequences, intended or unintended. In an institution that has a culture of accountability, those responsible would step up and take responsibility. In an institution lacking such a culture, no one is responsible and no consequences are meted out to employees who don’t do their jobs. In the private sector, an employee who costs the company a significant amount of money would be terminated for cause. They didn’t do their job in away that supported the organization. At CSU, employees are allowed to perform below standard and experience no consequences for their inadequate performance.

Accountability starts at the head of the organization. If the Board of Trustees does not expect the President of the university to embody and engender accountability, then the President will not create or maintain a culture of accountability. And if the President doesn’t hold others accountable, then what can every member of the community expect? Exactly what we have received over the past ten years. I do not believe that an interim president can change a dysfunctional culture. They might be able to begin a process, but it is up to the President to build and maintain that culture. Without accountability, I argue there will be no change, because no one will be responsible and those who don’t perform will be allowed to stay in their jobs.

The Board of Trustees will make a significant statement about accountability based on the three applicants they select for on campus interviews. If any of the three have issues in their professional lives that signify they don’t understand accountability it will be clear to me where the Board stands on accountability and what we can expect for the next ten years.


  1. OK, this is somewhat OT, but I started reading this post, was commenting in this space, turned out to be much longer than anticipated, and now I've got probably two pages in Text Edit (half of which pertains, other doesn't), but I just noticed this is for Faculty (I'm staff) but would you want what I wrote anyway. But I can't find the webmaster to contact, so here this is. A comment where it shouldn't be. But thankgot you all probably know me, so I porbably won't get 14 snarky messages berating my lack tecknowledg-e.

    Sue Gould in Publications, SCI 117 x3625

  2. Accountability, what a novel concept. Who's responsible for appointing the former Chicago State President? Were they held accountable for the mismanagement of funds by the former president i.e. going to watch "Lion King" in Toronto, Ontario (Canada) and spenting over $1,500 for dinner and drinks? And what about those copiers purchased for about $180k? Those copiers better be voice activated and have 4 plasma televisions attached with a dual satellite dish and can retrieve its own ink cartidges without manual assistance to be worth $180K! LOL Anyway, my point is the new president isn't going to start a culture of accountability until the state holds the Board accountable for their actions. Its a "trickle down" behavior we came accustom during the Reagan Administration. LOL

  3. I see people living in glass houses throwing stones at the Board and the candidates.

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