The Accountability Compass | Book Review

 BLUF (Bottom Line Up Front): Dennis Haley’s Accountability Compass should be recommended to Program Management Professionals (PMPs), leaders in matrix organizations, and leaders of geographically or functionally diverse teams. The book is organized into three sections which could be described as: Part One - Getting Ready to Lead; Part Two - The Usual Suspects and Part Three - Stepping Up.

Increasingly, Academy Leadership program attendees cite the same types of challenges faced by Guy Cedrick as he struggles to lead a new, highly technical initiative involving multiple companies but without tangible authority.

Primary Academy Leadership Module Alignment:

Introduction | Accountability

On page 70, Guy lets Mike “off the hook” – classic conflict avoidance. However, on page 85, Guy realizes that Robert was not effectively leading his MegaMart team. Chapter 11 is a gem, especially when Stanley reminisces how he asked for help during a complex program after the first schedule slips:

“So let’s all concentrate on helping me fix our problem.”

By page 111, Guy is able to step up and model this behavior for the first time challenging Margaret and letting her know that HE is the leader, the clean up crew, and most importantly, that he needs Margaret’s help.

My Leader’s Compass / E2L

On page 47, Stanley reminds Guy that meeting any complex challenge starts with one’s leadership philosophy. Further, on pages 48 & 49, Stanley questions how well Guy knows each team member, how well he knows their motivational needs. He also reminds Guy that in a matrix or diverse program team, a leader must assume the project is no one’s first priority except the leaders. As affiliates, we should share these observations, especially to PMPs.

Conflict Management

Part Two of The Accountability Compass could be called “The Usual Suspects” since any seasoned Program Manager is currently in the middle of or has likely been in a complex situation similar to Guy’s. However, in part due to Stanley’s coaching, Guy begins to observe (he doesn’t say this until the end of the book when Stanley asks him what he will do differently next time) that the conflicts are actually opportunities.


Guy kicks-off the project well (page 62), guiding the team to formulate their goals into SMART format. However, the stronger takeaway is Stanley’s guidance to Guy (page 50) that the process of planning is more important that the plan itself. This is especially true since one of the first casualties in a complex plan is the original plan, and a critical reminder to program managers who may be overinvested in plan integrity at the expense of relationship development.


My favorite part of the book is on page 113 when Guy realizes that he has time for dinner (without the kids) with his wife because he has been delegating important tasks to key team members who also need to step up. Page 111 is a perfect example when Guy turns around the conversation with Margaret and asks for her technical help with Shopper Xpress concerns.

Final Thoughts

On pages 34 and 35 Ted tells Guy a story about Woody Allen’s movie Sleeper and the Polaroid Company. It’s a great analogy - that most companies face the challenge of adapting to an uncertain future or perishing.

JE | January 2013