Re: Responsibility vs accountability LO2989

Michael McMaster (
Fri, 29 Sep 1995 16:59:42 +0000

Replying to LO2950 --

If you haven't noticed yet, Michael's back. (Possibly temporarily
because his computer is still sick.)

Grant, you've got part of the point but I haven't make the
presuppositions clear enough yet. The ability to promise, IMHO, is
not a function of authority but of courage, independence of being,
authenticity. That is, there are things that I cannot promise
because others have the authority which limits the content of my
promises but not my ability to promise.

What doesn't fit with my operational definition of "ability to
promise" is the phrase you use "if you make someone responsible".
Whoa! How can you *make* someone have the ability to promise?
Has hierarchical authority has raised its head unnoticed here?

And I see things getting worse. That is the major concern being
expressed "How do you hold someone to account?" These phrases make
responsibility and accountability sound like words or power and
control rather than a language of mutual commitment to action and

Accountable, in my operational definition, is the specific promises
that were made and accepted. These are agreements which, while they
might lead from time to time in "being held to account" are designed
to develop and keep building on previously spoken futures and mutual

Michael McMaster