Steve Jobs, Co-founder and CEO of Apple was the first person to imbue accountability in Apple through the concept of Directly Responsible Individuals (DRIs). This model is a fitting example of how companies can drive accountability across teams and organizational hierarchies. Let us take a look at what Apple’s DRI teaches us about accountability.

Enable completion of both small and large tasks

At the beginning of any project and, in fact, at every meeting, Apple appoints a DRI. This individual is responsible for tracking progress, delegating tasks, and ensuring quality outcomes. For example, it is the DRI’s responsibility to ensure the right people are invited to meetings and to track the outcomes of those meetings. No matter the size of the project – be it large business initiatives or daily execution tasks – a DRI is chosen and is strictly accountable.

Eliminate bottlenecks and save time

Over the years, the DRI model has helped Apple’s leadership team keep a steady hand on the pulse of the organization. Leaders can easily delegate important but not high-priority tasks to DRIs, and DRIs work with the necessary teams to solve cross-functional issues. In this way, it is not necessary for senior management to be looped into every meeting or email chain, thereby eliminating decision-making bottlenecks and saving time for other business-critical activities.

Encourage a strong sense of responsibility

More importantly, the DRI model brings in clarity to managerial and employee responsibilities. According to research by HBR, most managers don’t have a clear sense of what their roles and responsibilities are. Many of them are not even sure of which decisions are theirs to make. For example, the job of launching a new product feature can be ambiguous for the product manager and the marketing manager, each of whom may think it isn’t theirs to complete. In the DRI model, such ambiguity and confusion are eliminated at the get-go, giving managers clarity into their realm of responsibilities. It also fosters a sense of responsibility for each employee. By knowing who owns the project and the exact timelines and tasks, employees are well-informed to prioritize tasks and driven to achieve goals.

Tackle critical management challenges

Apple’s accountability solution was seamlessly incorporated throughout the organization at almost no cost, solving a crucial management challenge without the ramifications of micro-management or heavy process changes. In fact, the DRI model has now been adopted by other companies like Tettra and Flipboard as a way to foster workplace accountability.

The key takeaway is that accountability techniques must be in place at every level of the hierarchy to accelerate decision-making, avoid duplication of work, solve problems faster, and simplify communication.

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