Accountability at Frappe
The blog talks about accountability and how we put it into practice at Frappe.
Every Tuesday at Frappe, we have team calls that help us make company-wide decisions. These discussions can be restricted to business-related talks but can also be on the cultural aspect of Frappe, depending on the agendas and proposals. Last week we had an engaging exchange on how we can achieve accountability. This being my first in-person and in-office team discussion, I was a rather silent listener and observer of this discourse, and here are my two cents on my enriching listener experience.
Why is fixing accountability a challenge?
To me, accountability entails taking responsibility for the work that has been allocated to you and ensuring that it is completed. It also entails taking full responsibility and ownership for the decision or assignment you've been given.
At Frappe, we have “Pick your own work” where people can make a switch in their professional profiles and choose any work that’s originally assigned to a particular department or person and start contributing. This process is where an individual is awarded the discretionary authority to act and make a representation of the interests that are at stake. Accountability plays a vital role especially in such circumstances, as it puts a check on the discretion exercised by the person in choosing their own work.
How do we ensure accountability at Frappe?
“Accountability” is one of the core organisational values of Frappe, and is given due consideration. Additionally, Frappe has “Pick your own work”, “Pick your own Pay”, “Flat organisational structure” and “Democracy at the workplace” and is a “remote-first” company; These factors mandate checks and balances to ensure that they aren’t put to use in an undesirable manner. Thus, we have two ways to ensure workplace accountability, and I shall walk you through them.
Transparency - Gameplan
In an organisation with multiple departments, and the freedom to pick one’s own work, keeping track of what each person is doing becomes a herculean task. To counter this, we have an online forum called Gameplan.
Typical posts on Gameplan include:
- Financial updates
- Project updates
- Quality reviews
- Culture discussions
- Strategy discussions
This exercise allows others who are directly impacted by the work in question to provide feedback and suggestions on it. What impresses me the most about this exercise is the fact that such feedback is provided at a stage where it is still being worked upon! This helps the person responsible for the said task to perform it in the way it is expected, for it to achieve its maximum potential.
It is pertinent to note here, that this exercise might otherwise require a series of long tiring meetings and a lot of mail exchange. So, one of the side benefits of Gameplan is that putting things online helps reduce time on calls and meetings. Thus, putting it out on a platform such as this saves time and helps achieve the desired goals and objectives of the task.
Additionally, this forum rids Frappe from the requirement of managers to keep track of the performance of each member. Elimination of hierarchical assessment from this exercise adds to greater transparency and ensures a just account of performance evaluation.
Another activity that Frappe engages in is "Open Day," where Frappe members present their bi-monthly updates, primarily at our Vidyavihar office, Mumbai. This allows everyone at Frappe to pose questions and have them answered in real-time, as opposed to Gameplan, which allows us to do the same, but online.
At Frappe, the Open Day is organised in a systematic manner, with specific departments and their members participating every alternate month. To avoid last-minute hiccups, departmental presentations are planned and sequenced well in advance. Timers are used to ensure that individual and group presentations do not exceed the time limits of 8 and 15 minutes, respectively.
The Open day presentations at Frappe are not your typical corporate presentations. The fun element is present in almost every presentation. People are encouraged to share their personal experiences with respect to the literature they read, places they travelled to, cinema they watched, things they learned or anything else not work-related they wish to share.
Open Day is a holistic exercise in and of itself because it encourages people to improve their public speaking and presentation skills, provides a platform for them to showcase their creativity, and build rapport with their coworkers. Every Open Day concludes with a poll in which participants vote for their favourite presenter. This serves as a great incentive for participants to make creative and knowledge-enhancing presentations.
People in most organisations work in a variety of departments, but they rarely have the opportunity to connect with each other and learn about the issues they face in their field of work. We are getting closer to closing this gap at Frappe by making people more aware of their surroundings in general, and Frappe in particular. Increased understanding of each other’s work, aids team building, mitigates miscommunication, develops a shared understanding of expectations and thus helps in the smooth functioning of the organisation.
At Frappe, we respect individual rights and freedoms and that comes with its set of obligations and responsibilities. I attribute my learnings of accountability to a recent experience that questioned my understanding of it. Being my first-of-its-kind experience in the entirety of my professional life, it made me sit back and ponder, as to where exactly did the problem lay? I realised that it is not enough to just do your own work but also demonstrate it in a way that the “why” behind it is communicated to everyone regardless of their professional background. This also comes with its own challenges, and this is exactly why I think accountability does not work in a “One size fits all” manner; As, the practical adherence of it is greatly determined by the style of working adopted and that, sometimes, is very quintessential to the profession a person belongs to.
We know that the excess of anything is bad. Is there a thing like too much accountability? Even if there is, should that pose a problem? These are some questions that have stayed with me for a while.
As important as accountability is, too much of it might contribute to increasing complexity with respect to understanding others’ work, and their way of performing it. As their way might not be in conformity with the people they are accountable to when they act in a manner particular to their area of expertise.
Therefore, for any accountability exercise to be successful, striking a balance between the expectations, and having trust in the competence of the people in an organisation, becomes pivotal.