Consultant Mike Scott believes in order to thrive, not just survive, it is imperative that a contractor creates a totally accountable work environment.
MAUI, Hawaii - Every contracting business depends on employees meeting deadlines and managing priorities. With that in mind, no wonder Mike Scott drew a crowd for his education presentation at the Mechanical Contractors Association of America (MCAA) Convention.

The title of Scott's talk - "How to Create a Work Environment That is 100% Accountable, 100% of the Time" - definitely piqued attendees' interest. Even though the weather outside was warm and the environment around the stunning Grand Wailea Resort was inviting, members packed the Puakenikeni room to listen and learn.

And, the invited consultant did not mince words, either. "Accountability is doing what you said you would do, as you said you would do it, when you said you would do it - period!" stressed Scott. "Therefore, as a company, we do what we said we would do, as we said we would do it, when we said we would do it - period! There are no excuses."

As he put it, how one does anything is how one does everything. "In the competitive world we live in today, to continue to thrive, not just survive, it is imperative that we create a totally accountable work environment," he said, "and, therefore, produce totally accountable results for our clients."


During his 90-minute talk, Scott covered three specific topics: how to manage meetings; how to manage tasks and projects; and how to confirm needed action steps, all aimed to improve one's business.

In regard to meetings, Scott made the following six suggestions to bring about accountability.

1. Always have a written agenda for each meeting.

2. A standard operating meeting procedure should include an action plan template on the back of each written agenda. This template simply means having a place to record action plans noted in a meeting, plus a place to record when those action plans are to be completed.

3. Attendees must keep meeting notes on this action plan, located on the back of each written agenda.

4. Before the meeting ends, each attendee needs to read back what he/she is committed to do. This, said Scott, is the key. "This is not micromanaging," he said. "Over 50 percent of what we say is either not heard, misunderstood, misinterpreted, forgotten, or misstated. That is the reason we have people read back what it is that they are assigned to do so there are no misunderstandings."

5. Allow no surprises. "A surprise," explained Scott, "is you not doing what you said you were going to do and I am not aware of it." If a deadline is not going to be met, that person should not only inform the boss in person, but the employee should also provide a solution to the problem. And that's not by e-mail or via a voicemail message, either.

"I am not letting people off the hook," he said. "You have to tell me in person."

6. Stop sending out summaries of delegated items. While he admitted some companies might need to do this due to legal reasons, he thought this step gives employees excuses for not doing their assignments.

"They can always say they never got it," he said, referring to the meeting notes and/or delegation summary. "If you have them take down their action plans on the back of an agenda, and you have them read their action plans back to you, that should be enough. That's accountability."

So that all company meetings follow suit, Scott said contractors should teach the entire management team this meeting management procedure.


In the big picture, Scott wanted to make sure that all parties understood the meaning of tasks, appointments, and projects. He said a task was an activity that may or may not have a date on it. On the other hand, an appointment is an activity that will always have a date and include a time on it. Projects, then, are a series of tasks and sometimes appointments, he explained.

"This is important to know," he said. "It clarifies what an employee has to do. It's all about communication, which translates into accountability."

To keep accountability straight, he encouraged owners to keep a master to do list. With one place to keep all tasks, this stops all forgetting and creates immediate organization and prioritization, he thought. It also creates a company-wide terminology of prioritization, plus allows for effective weekly one-on-one meetings, he said. This master list can be kept on electronic software programs, including Microsoft Excel and Apple Entourage.

To make sure the crowd implemented his workshop information, Scott had each pair up with a fellow attendee. He asked each person to make a check mark next to two items he/she would do from his workshop. He then asked each person to inform his/her newfound partner what those two items were. In the end, he wanted each person to call the partner "to develop an implementation plan from this workshop."

"Give your action plan to your partner," he said, adding that each needed to call his/her partner on certain, established dates, just to make sure implementation was in progress.

"It's called accountability," said Scott. "Remember, it's not what we don't know that prevents us from succeeding. It's what we know, that just ain't so, that is our greatest obstacle."

He mocked some companies, which "sort of do what we said we would do, kind of like we said we would do it, close to when we said we would do it - maybe." To create accountability, he repeated that a company must do what it said it was to do, as it said it would do it, and when it said it would do it - period!

"That's how to create a work environment that is 100 percent accountable, 100 percent of the time," he concluded.

Publication date: 04/17/2006