Is there a difference? Does it really matter?

Considerable time and energy is often spent on defining and then debating the differences, if any, between accountability and responsibility. The following thoughts are offered for discussion and, hopefully, clarity.


The accountable person(s) is/are answerable to higher and/or broader authority for the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of the actions and decisions for the entire organization or a specific piece of the organization.

In the case of the CEO, for example, he/she is answerable to the Board of Directors and Shareholders for the effectiveness of the organization of which he/she is the CEO. In many if not most cases, the person accountable may well not be responsible for the piece(s) of work that comprise the whole for which she/he is accountable.

The consequences attendant with the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of the entire organization are placed upon the accountable person(s).


Responsibility applies to one or more people being answerable for a piece of the whole; e.g. project, department function, process.The consequences are placed on the responsible person(s) for the effectiveness of the area, task, function, etc. for which she/he is responsible


Regardless of whether one is accountable or responsible (or both), the following three elements apply:
It doesn?t matter how hard I tried, what unexpected or Uncontrollable things happened, the job/task/assignment got done or it didn?t. If it did get done, I carried out my responsibility. If it didn?t get done, I did not carry out my responsibility. PERIOD!

Responsibility/accountability, once accepted is TOTAL. It doesn?t matter how hard I tried, what things may have happened over which I have no control, or how hard I worked. The question is DID I GET IT DONE! DID WE GET THE RESULTS?

Responsibility/accountability is MUTUAL. If I have information, resources, knowledge, etc. that YOU need to carry your responsibilities, I must give them to you without being asked.(You might not know that I have them. You might not know that you need them). The point is that I am responsible for helping you and the organization be successful.