Peer groups help encourage accountability

Peer groups help encourage accountability

Agribusiness
Michael Bagshaw

Michael Bagshaw

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WE SHOULD all welcome accountability with open arms, as there are clear links between accountability and productivity.

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WE SHOULD all welcome accountability with open arms, as there are clear links between accountability and productivity.

But, being accountable can sometimes be uncomfortable, and some people become quite stressed at the mere mention of the word.

Accountability applies in all sorts of contexts. Anyone who is an employee is accountable to their employer and even if you are self-employed you are responsible to others in many ways.

Many years ago I worked at a Chartered Accounting firm. I enjoyed the environment and we were very well trained; skills I still use on a regular basis.

It is easy to make big announcements and then forget all about them and continue with your routine.

But we had to be accountable for our time, as this is what accountants sell. It is changing a bit now with more fixed fees, but essentially, billing was based on time spent on a job. We had to account for six-minute increments of time every day. I didn't enjoy this one bit.

In agriculture, the accountability stakes get really high when you are part of a peer group, where everything is on the table for all to see, including comprehensive financial information. Financials expose all the skeletons in the closet. Quite a few of these groups exist, and I have been part of them in the past.

Once you get past the initial thought of doing this, the experience becomes quite liberating. These types of groups involve a lot of trust, and personally I have never heard of a situation where this trust has been breached by members disclosing private information to people outside the group.

Some of these groups have existed for more than 20 years, others are much newer. There are certainly more than there have been in the past.

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Some require a reasonable commitment of time and, of course, some financial outlay. Some are production-based, while others focus on the running of the business at a strategic level, and some do both.

Accountability seems to be the key for those businesses that benefit most from being involved. It is one thing to announce to a crowd you are going to do something, but it goes up another level if the people you announce your big plans to are going to keep checking in on progress, and openly challenge you if you don't follow through.

This is where the magic happens though. It is easy to make big announcements and then forget all about them and continue with your routine, as that route is normally more comfortable.

It's a bit like having a fear of something like public speaking or heights. For most people, once they face their fear it fades away, and their lives are enriched as a result.

I have seen some agribusinesses grow to amazing levels of production, profitability and professionalism by being involved in this collaborative form of professional development. In some cases, it has opened up completely different areas of focus, and allowed them to become self-sufficient in some ways.

Certainly, they have set the foundation for long-term sustainability.

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