Are you clear on the ‘Who’ (and the ‘What’)?

One of the great things about a smaller business or a start-up is the feeling of teamwork you get (if you’re doing it right). Opportunities or challenges come up and it’s all hands on deck, with everyone chipping in to rise to the challenge.

When you’re trying to scale your business, that level of teamwork is a great thing – in fact it’s a requirement if you need to get the big things done. But like most strengths, if you take them too far or if that idea becomes too embedded in how you do things, it will cause you serious problems down the road.


The Clarity of Who and What

One of the biggest keys to scaling a business – or running one without a lot of friction, is constantly working on making things as simple and clear as you can. Having everyone jump in to help get the work done is great, but taken too far it leads to confusion, finger-pointing and, well… friction.

The better alternative is to make sure you have clear ownership and accountability for everything that happens within the business. You’ll still want and need to have teamwork and support and to pull everyone together for the big efforts, but there will always be a clear owner of the effort. And if you want to actually scale your business, the business owner should NOT be responsible for all of those big efforts.

A great exercise that can help you get a handle on how things stand in your business is to use an Accountability Organizational Chart. I first saw this idea in the best selling book Traction by Gino Wickman and even though it’s a simple idea (but not easy) it can have a huge impact on a business that’s trying to grow.

Everyone is likely familiar with a standard Org chart – this concept is similar, but instead of starting with the people you have, you start with the work that needs to be done. Simplistically every business needs to

  1. Generate opportunities,
  2. Do the work or deliver the solution and,
  3. Support the organization (Finance, HR, IT, etc.).

I like the simple description of Find, Grind and Mind the work. On top of that, every entity needs to be going somewhere and needs to have all of those efforts coordinated (Visionary and Integrator). Simplistically, your starting chart would look like this:


Accountability Organizational Chart – starting point

A very basic version of this idea (see above) might work, but more than likely you’ll want to break this down to a bit more detail that aligns with your specific business. That being said, part of the power of this tool is keeping it simple enough that everyone will ‘get it’ with a quick review. General rule of thumb – try to keep it to one page.

As you create your chart, every box should contain 3 to 5 key responsibilities for that particular component – that’s what’s ‘owned’ by that box.

Once you are able to fully describe all of the work that needs to be done within the business, then you can start applying names to the boxes – with a couple of caveats. You can have a name show up in multiple boxes, but each box can only have 1 name. In other words, if you’ve got a start-up with just the owner involved, then the owner’s name would be in every box. As you start hiring people you put their name on a box, signifying that the owner no longer has primary responsibility for that work – the new person does.

Benefits of an Organizational Accountability Chart

There are several things I really like about this exercise. For starters, what you’re likely to find out is that the owner’s name is in a lot more boxes than it probably should be in. That may be due to timing, or the challenge of hiring the right people or it just may be a reluctance to truly delegate important work and decisions. Whatever the case, a business will be very difficult to scale beyond a certain point if it’s too dependent on any one or two people (even if they’re the owners).

The second thing that you’ll likely notice is that you probably have a couple of boxes that have more than one name in them (if you’re being honest). And although that’s a realistic assessment of the All Hands on Deck mentality, it’s also a huge red flag for future problems. If more than one person is accountable for a specific outcome, then no one is accountable.

You must have a clear owner for everything.

Finally – the other major thing I like about this exercise is that it’s a great way to think about your growth strategically. If you create a chart that reflects how your business operates today, you’ll learn a lot of things and you’ll be able to communicate very clearly to the team how things should look. But you can also create what you’d like the chart to look like in 6 to 12 months. If your name, as the owner, is on too many of the boxes, which of those boxes are you going to give up (and to who) in order to be able to grow? What other changes can you make that will help things run more smoothly or simply?

A good Accountability Org Chart can help you figure that out.

This is a simple exercise, but it’s not always easy at first. Give it a try and let me know what you think, or if you’ve already done this, share your thoughts in a comment below, we’d love to hear from you.

Shawn Kinkade Kansas City Business Coach