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RAA Content Series – Part I May 2, 2017

Posted by mariemanthey in History, Leadership, Manthey Life Mosaic, Professional Practice.
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Part I

 

A useful framework for improving the workplace and other areas of life is RAA. RAA stands for Responsibility, Authority and Accountability. Those words convey multitudes of meanings.   Their use in this paper is based on definitions found in dictionaries, and applied in this article to:

Organizing complex functions,

Clarifying interpersonal relationship issues and

Achieving the full experience of will power.

To introduce this concept, I’ll share the story of its origins, and how this concept came to become the framework I hold up to every aspect of life.

It started when a group of nurses on a single hospital unit began to change the way they were taking care of their patients.   It was the late sixties and unrest was a societal norm.   I connect the underlying causes motivating the protesters and the changes initiated by these nurses.     These days, with different kinds of disruptions underway, the relevance of these concepts is higher than ever.

Paul Goodman wrote about decentralization, the Equal Rights Amendment was nearly passed, ‘power to the people’ was a popular slogan.   As I was trying to understand the principles behind the changes the nurses were making, I was led to literature about Responsibility, Authority and Accountability.   Interestingly enough, some of that literature was about the use of these concepts in military organization, and in the law.   Ultimately, I opted for a simple definition based on dictionary terminology.   My definition is as follows:

Responsibility – The clear allocation and acceptance of response-ability so everyone knows who is doing what (who is managing the process of each specific functionality being accomplished).

Authority – The right to act – to make decisions and direct behavior of others – in the area for which one has been allocated and accepted responsibility.   There are two levels of authority: Authority to recommend and authority to act.   Clarification of which level applies in each specific situations is functionally useful.

Accountability – The retrospective review of the decisions made or actions taken to determine if they were appropriate.   In the case of the decision-making having been non-optimal, corrective action can be taken for the purpose of improving functionality. That corrective action must never be punitive.

 

ORGANIZING COMPLEX FUNCTIONS

I spent the next 10 years pragmatically applying these concepts to both a delivery system for nursing care and to the complex bureaucratic institution known as a hospital.   These were not theoretical applications of concepts or armchair speculations, but rather actual reorganizations involving changing roles, relationships and responsibilities of real people working in real hospitals.   During that period of pragmatic and intense organizational application, I learned many things.   Among them:

  1. How changing work organization impacts on personal development, as well roles, relationships, work quality and energy levels of workers.
  2. How disparity in the balance between responsibility, authority and accountability at the personal, departmental and administrative levels of operations creates dysfunctional organizations and troubled human relationships.
  3. How personal maturity and responsibility acceptance are totally intertwined
  4. The defined difference between a profession, an occupation and a vocation.

IMPLICATIONS FOR ORGANIZATIONS

Lack of clarity and disparity of balance regarding among these concepts results in dysfunctional organizations and negative interpersonal relations.   These conditions in turn, produce low morale, inefficiency and low quality work.

First of all, the issue of clarity.   The scope of responsibility involved in each and every role, needs to be clear to both the person in the role and to those who interact with that role.   Role confusion regarding scope of responsibility creates incredible job stress and interpersonal tensions.   Whenever responsibility has not been clearly allocated, there is a power vacuum resulting in power struggles.   These power struggles can fall anywhere on the spectrum from having individuals assume authority way beyond their legitimate scope and …conversely,  things not being done because everyone assumes the other person will do it.   Role clarity with specific attention to scope of responsibility is essential to effective functioning.

Clarity of authority levels is also crucial.     The delegation of authority should ideally be exactly commensurate to the scope of responsibility.   An effective decentralized organizational structure will reflect careful attention to matching responsibility to authority.   In some situations, individuals may be unwilling to accept responsibility and will therefore be reluctant to use the authority they have been delegated.   These individuals will manifest continued dependencies and often fall into victim thinking. On the other hand, some individuals refuse (or are unable) to see the limits of their responsibility scope, and insist on exercising authority over functions that fall outside their scope of responsibility.   These situations result in an abuse of power.

When these elements are not in alignment, individuals affected by that have an opportunity to provide correction.   For example:

Imagine a situation where your boss asks you to take over a new function.   Maybe run a new clinic in a nearby town, in addition to your current clinic responsibilities. He/she says “You are responsible for getting this up and running and ‘in the black’ within a year.   Do a good job!”     You may say, will I be choosing the site we will rent?   And the answer is “NO …the site is already decided.”   You may then ask, will I be hiring the staff for this clinic?   And the answer is NO…. the type of staff (and consequent costs) will be controlled by Budget Control Office.   You may ask, will I have a marketing budget to announce this new service. And the answer is NO…that is under the control of the marketing department. And you say, will I have anything to say about location, equipment to be purchased, staff to be hired, services to be given and amount clients will be charged, to which every answer is “NO – someone else has that responsibility.” You are only responsible for bringing it into profitability within one calendar year. In this scenario, a wise employee would say, ‘Boss…. I am willing to coordinate the opening of this clinic and to do everything in my power to assure financial success, but I cannot take responsibility for that since I have no decision-making authority.’

.. to be continued

Comments»

1. Absence of RAA – Problems Universal | Marie Manthey's Nursing Salon - May 17, 2017

[…] ..Disparity in the balance between responsibility, authority and accountability at the personal, departmental and administrative levels of operations creates dysfunctional organizations and troubled human relationships. […]


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