Accountability is key to aligning an organization’s day-to-day activities with its stated values. A virtuous organization is accountable to its stakeholders (including shareholders, employees, and customers), as well as to its mission, vision, and values. A virtuous organization practices introspection and self-evaluation, holding itself accountable, because it is deeply committed to avoiding harm and creating both social and financial value.
Being accountable includes an organization striving to accurately measure its impact. A virtuous organization moves past measuring outputs and outcomes in order to rigorously and honestly evaluate total impact. It responds to this information by adjusting programs, processes, and product mix to mitigate harm and increase value, and by transparently reporting to both the outside public and to people inside the organization.
The paradox organizations face is that in order to be virtuous, they must admit the ways in which they are failing to achieve virtue. If the organization wants to be good, it has to know the ways in which it is bad. While this tension is uncomfortable, it is also inspiring because a virtuous organization understands that mission-driven progress has an aspirational purpose. It is willing to confront shortcomings to improve. Accountability brings an organization into alignment, providing a natural course of action for improvement.