Re: Responsibility vs accountability LO2849

Michael McMaster (
Sat, 16 Sep 1995 02:59:14 +0000

Replying to LO2806 --

It is instructive to me that these two terms which are essential to a
management context are never agreed upon even within a single
organisation. How can this be? The weakness of management is
revealed in the lack of distinction and operational definitions in
its language.

The roots of the words are different and their evoutionary histories
are different. Responsibility comes from the ability to respond
which originated from the ability to promise. *Ability* is the key
here. The ability to promise is an internal state which has
referents in historical performance.

Accountability is from "counting" and has to do with agreements for
results. Responsibility is a precondtion for accountability.

In this useage, neither can be assigned. Both are dependent on a
relationship to one's own word and to social structures which take
these seriously.

Michael McMaster