A Culture of Ownership Starts with Clear Accountability

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The overall safety record in commercial aviation remains strong, despite occasional high-profile incidents. In fact, the chances of fatality in an aviation accident are 1 in 9,821, while in an automobile they’re 1 in 114! There is a simple formula for the high success rate in aviation: great processes plus solid training/certification plus an obsession with clear responsibilities.

Who’s Responsible and What Are They Responsible For?


Let’s take air traffic controllers for example. Each is responsible for a sector of traffic. When a flight is about to leave their sector, they hand-off to the controller in the next sector. Their primary responsibility is to maintain safe separation between aircraft and seamlessly allow for a safe arrival at the flight destination. They are trained, tested and certified around these specific responsibilities.

Pilots must also be clear about their roles, especially with more than one qualified pilot onboard. Only one pilot is the PIC (Pilot in Command) and the captain is always PIC on commercial flights, even if he/she is not flying the airplane.

It’s not always straightforward in general aviation. There may be more than one qualified pilot on board with no one designated as captain. In this case, the pilots must agree on who is ultimately responsible for the safety of the flight before initiating takeoff.

Do Your Employees Have Clear Roles and Responsibilities?

It’s no different in your business. Perhaps the CEO is the Pilot in Command, but have you defined the specific responsibilities of the crew?

The Accountability Chart is your primary tool to help achieve the level of clarity needed around everyone’s responsibilities. Expectations around responsibilities may seem obvious to you, but chances are they’re not as crystal clear as you think. A good test is to identify an issue in your organization and then clearly confirm which function on your Accountability Chart “owns” it. If the answer is not straightforward, then you’re not quite there!

Clear Accountability Leads to a Culture of Ownership

Your relentless pursuit of clear roles and responsibilities in your organization will help you achieve a more consistent success rate, and will help you remain strong despite the occasional incident. Clear accountability with measurable expectations will help build a healthy culture of ownership within your organization and will free people to take initiative to solve problems.

This post originally appeared on the Blue Core Leadership Blog on May 9, 2018.

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