Accountability Charts vs Org Charts: What’s the Difference?

Organizational charts are about far more than showing reporting relationships. They have a wide range of use cases, from project planning to differentiating teams and showing who’s accountable for what.

Organizational charts that clearly illustrate accountability, both on an individual and collective level, help to support a more efficient organization, streamlined decision making, and better performance overall.  


What is an Organizational Chart?

For the uninitiated, an organizational chart is a document that illustrates who is in charge of whom, or who reports to whom, internally. An org chart is designed to illustrate and clarify the overall reporting hierarchy within an organization.

Although it’s true that traditional organizational charts are easy to create and do a great job of this task, that’s all that they do in their most basic form.


What is an Accountability Chart?

While organizational charts (‘org charts’) focus on who reports to who within an organization, they typically fail to illustrate one of the biggest pain points of companies (especially larger ones): Who is accountable for what?

Organizations therefore turn to accountability charts to introduce clarity about who is responsible for specific functions within an organization and highlight their main roles and responsibilities.

As with org charts, there are several different types of accountability charts. You’ll need to choose one that best reflects the way your organization and workforce are organized and operate. It’s important to note that an accountability chart doesn’t chart your structure, however.


Types of Accountability Charts

Accountability charts take inspiration from what’s known as the ‘Free Rider’ problem. This is the burden on a shared resource that’s created by its use by people who aren’t paying their fair share for it, or in this case those who aren’t accountable.

An accountability chart solves this problem by showing the one person or one group who’s responsible for a specific function because if more than one person is responsible, nobody is responsible, and this can cause standards to slip.

Here are some of the different types of accountability charts:


Flat Org/Accountability Chart

This isn’t strictly an accountability chart, but a type of org chart that can double up as an accountability chart depending on the circumstances.

In a flat org, everyone within the business typically reports to a single person, the CEO. This type of arrangement is more common in smaller organizations such as early-stage start-ups. Since the flat org chart only has one or two levels at most, the person being reported to has ultimate accountability whilst individuals below them share accountability equally for the execution of operations.

The only problem with a flat org chart when it comes to accountability is growth – as an organization grows, uncertainty can arise about who is responsible for individual tasks and functions.


Function-Based Accountability Chart

A function-based accountability chart is exactly what it sounds like. Accountability is grouped according to function-specific tasks, such as accounting or human resources. Within a function, a team of individuals will have collective accountability for functional tasks with the person that leads that functional group having ultimate accountability.

While function-based accountability charts define clear responsibilities, they can also support an environment where functional groups begin to work in silos with their own interests at heart rather than the organization as a whole.


Product-Based Accountability Chart

Organizing accountability based on product assigns ownership according to each product type or category. Ultimate accountability sits with a product leader who will typically supervise individuals with various functions within their product group. This makes product-based accountability charts much broader than their function-based counterparts.

As an example, Meta (prev. Facebook) has product groups for its flagship brands like Instagram (headed by Adam Mosseri) and WhatsApp (headed by Will Cathcart). Within these groups will be programmers, security specialists, UI experts, and more.

While the product-based approach avoids the problem of functional teams working in silos, there are other potential drawbacks such as a lack of consistency between different product groups and limited collaboration.


Geographic Accountability Chart

A geographic accountability chart assigns accountability based on geographic regions where the business operates, for example, North America, Europe, Asia & Middle East. Regions can also be broken down within countries, such as Western U.S., Eastern U.S., Western Europe, South-East Asia, etcetera.

The benefit of a geographic approach is that each region is ultimately in charge of its own prosperity: It is responsible for developing teams, processes, and individual accountabilities (whether team-based or otherwise) to meet regional and overall organizational goals.


Build Your Own Accountability Chart with Organimi

An accountability chart can help bring clarity to your organization by showing people who’s ultimately responsible for what.

Building an accountability chart with Organimi is easy, too.

Just sign up for a 14-day free trial, create a blank org chart, and use our drag-and-drop functionality to create your own accountability chart in minutes. You can even import your own existing data, making the process quicker and simpler.