Responsibility and the runaway dog

16 Jul

One day at an agency I used to work at, an art director brought in his dog for the afternoon. He had to go to a client meeting, so he asked everyone on the ground floor to keep their eye on her while he was out. Sure enough, he came back to discover that his dog had escaped out the back door into busy downtown streets. A missing poster was made, tears shed, fingers pointed, and a search team organized. Luckily, the dog was soon found. An account director summed it all up as so: “When something is everyone’s responsibility, it is no one’s responsibility.” Had the art director asked one co-worker to dog-sit, the dog wouldn’t have likely escaped.

More and more, we see silos at agencies disintegrating and tasks falling into many people’s hands. Everyone is responsible for contributing to the agency blog. Everyone is responsible for staying informed about social media. Everyone is responsible for keeping the office kitchen tidy. And I think these responsibilities should be company-wide: it keeps employees engaged, makes the agency stronger and more cohesive, keeps knowledge shared, and invites multiple perspectives.

But how do you keep everyone accountable?

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2 Responses to “Responsibility and the runaway dog”

  1. Andrew Hall July 16, 2010 at 10:46 am #

    For things like blogging and staying informed with social media, you can’t enforce behaviour. “Shane, you must produce one excellent blog post per week,” or “Mike, you don’t get a raise unless you stumble across one way we can use social media to increase brand awareness by 12% this month” are obviously not valid options. However, I think you can use at least two methods to promote the behaviour – using incentives, and recognizing positive behaviour. I don’t think these types of activities warrant monetary incentives, but having a fun and creative prize for the “Blogger of the Month,” could provide incentive. And when an account manager finds a great way to use social media to the firm’s advantage, there needs to be an observable recognition of that feat from both peers and management. In either case, I believe that keeping employees conditioned to provide desired outcomes, for tasks that can not be assigned to one person, begins by sharing those corporate values and acknowledging success.

    As for keeping a kitchen clean, that’s near impossible and I don’t dare attempt to solve it.

  2. Michael Tension July 16, 2010 at 3:20 pm #

    Shane, it’s your dish day man.

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