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Open your books to keep yourself accountable

Open up your books

There’s a US company, Steve Jackson Games, that releases an enlightening report every year. It used to be written by the bloke whose name is on the door, but for the past few instalments he’s handed over duties to CEO Phil Reed.

If you’re not into nerdy stuff, the content will go right over your head – or past your glazed-over eyes, more accurately – but have a look at what this company is actually doing. They’re not only letting in their loyal customers and disloyal competitors on where their heads are at, they’re holding themselves publicly accountable for how close they come to achieving their goals for the year.

It’s the corporate equivalent of forcing yourself to go through with everything you say you’re gonna do when you’re drunk.

They kick off with an overview, then go through the high points. The attaboys, the self-backpats, the surprising twists that funnelled more money into their pockets. Then they start to roll downhill, for a healthy bout of self-criticism.

It’s important to note that this is done in a spirit of honest self-reflection, with an eye to how things can be remedied and improved next year. Sometimes this means a reallocation of resources, and sometimes it means letting a beloved project go.

Here’s a telling example, in case you nodded off during the talk about Discworld and Munchkin: “Checklists and procedures continue to be out of date and incomplete. Some effort has gone into modernizing our ancient documentation and making the written processes reflect reality, but far too often work stops on administrative tasks in favor of pushing projects off to print.”

You don’t have to be in the games biz – or even publishing – to recognise how easily much-needed upgrades to your processes can always be kicked down the road for something more immediately urgent. But often that’s the sort of perspective you only get when taking a good, hard look at your organisation away from the day to day.

Finally, there’s the one-two punch of measuring how well they did in achieving the priorities they set at the end of last year…and setting priorities for the year to come.

Even if you’re not bold enough to hang your dirty laundry out for the world to see, it might be worth writing up an honest appraisal of your 2017 for your own purposes.

See how it looks 12 months from now.

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