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The Call for New Accountability Research

This February, the Good Leadership team is launching and leading a shared-investment research project, where organizations are sharing in the expense of world class research to answer the question: What is the secret to creating healthy accountability in highly-collaborative, teams-of-teams workplace?

What research is already out there?

The idea for this specific research came from many leaders who all shared the same challenge of creating healthy accountability in collaborative workplaces. The project started like most do – by scanning the internet, including Artificial Intelligence (AI) to aid our search – to learn what research says about the potential to improve workplace accountability. To our surprise, the literature isn’t very deep.

The majority of literature published is focused on “character” and accountability from a self-discipline perspective. It’s an individual-centric model. That’s very clear in the popular RACI (Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed) model for operational planning that was created in the 1950s, and taught consistently through today. The conclusion of the RACI chart is simple: one person is held accountable. It’s aligned with the hierarchical, chain of command traditional culture, a style that has been slowly eroding. 

In the 1990s, the dialogue shifted to a plural, collective discussion by Jon R. Katzenbach and Douglas K. Smith, from their book The Discipline of Teamsfeatured in Harvard Business Review. The point of their work: “No group ever becomes a team until it can hold itself accountable as a team.” By suggesting that a team is only a team when its members hold themselves accountable, the central discussion about accountability changed. 

What’s happening right now?

Managers know now that positive teamwork is important and expected. They know that encouraging employees to think of, and engage in, team accountability is challenging. The new, modern open system workplace where people are often on four or more teams, creates a tangible challenge.  A 2020 Harvard Business Review article on fostering workplace accountability reported: 

91% of employees think “effectively holding others accountable” is one of their company’s top leadership development needs. And 82% of managers acknowledge they have “limited to no” ability to hold others accountable successfully. 

The call for new accountability research is now. Good Leadership’s research results will be revealed at the Good Leadership Conference in Minneapolis on November 22, 2024. To be a part of industry-changing research, send an email to

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