Attribution and accountability only for outcomes achievable within accountability time-frames principle

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Academic references to outcomes theory


The principle

Units or parties should only be held to account for outcomes achievable within the timeframe of the particular accountability cycle. 


The problem

Outcomes take time to achieve, however attribution and accountability cycles often work within much shorter timeframes. It is incoherent to hold parties to account for not achieving outcomes within an accountability cycle where insufficient time has elapsed for to outcomes to actually be achieved. 


The solution

Accountability of units or parties should be restricted to outcomes that are achievable within the timeframe of the accountability cycle. Longer accountability cycles in some cases can help with this, however there is a trade-off between the length of an accountability cycle and the proximity of incentives to when behavior is occurring.


Examples

Many social development and human services programs consist of interventions that will take many years to come to fruition. It does not make sense to hold the parties who are undertaking these interventions to account of outcomes that are unlikely to have occurred within the timeframe of the accountability cycle. Therefore accountability is usually struck lower down the outcomes model (the model of all of the steps necessary to get to high-level outcomes) at a level which it is reasonable to expect would have occurred within the timeframe of the accountability cycle.