It's a Project Manager's World Newsletter with Dr. James Brown
      March, 2013 Full Moon Edition      

Accountability - The Number One Project Manager Success Factor

Last month’s newsletter identified my top ten project manager success factors.  The number one success factor on that list was “Establish crystal clear single point accountability (For everything... tasks, risks, issues, assumptions etc.)

Odds are high that you have eaten at a restaurant with a large group.  Often when a large group is present, the restaurant will require a group check.  When this occurs… if your experience has been like mine, the group check often comes up short!  For years my belief was this happened because people could not add… basic addition...  couldn’t add up their meal cost and calculate a tip.  Until this happened when I was with a group of PhD rocket scientists and I knew they could add, subtract and do Fourier transforms with ½ their brain tied behind their back.  This was when I realized that even in the most trivial of situations, the absence of single point accountability causes some people not be accountable.

Never assume people will readily accept accountability. (Even when it is obviously theirs)

This assumption also applies to your sponsors and leadership.  You can close your eyes right now and know the accountability dodgers in your organization.   Accountability dodgers also kill team work because someone else has to jump in and cover for their lack of accountability.  Just like in the restaurant group check scenario, some responsible person grows weary of the recount and just adds the missing money even though it was not theirs!

Your role as a leader is to create trust and ensure accountability.

Trust and accountability are intertwined and creating both requires work on your part.  The “Process Hawks” aka “Template Terrorists” will conclude something like the Responsible Accountable Consulted Informed (RACI) chart is the quick solution for this.  The RACI chart is a good thing.  The RACI chart is common sense.  The work here though is garnering the acceptance of accountability of individuals to go in the chart.  To garner acceptance you must...

   1. Understand the work

   2. Know what constitutes a successful deliverable

   3. Identify who can actually deliver

   4. Gain their commitment to the required delivery date

Completing these four steps is non-trivial in the overall scope of most projects. If it were just a simple as populating names in a templatewhy everyone would be great at project management…  and you know everyone is not!

As a rule only have individuals accountable.  Never groups!

You want someone’s name for each A in the RACI chart.  It is easy to nag an individual.  It is difficult to nag a group.  Yes nagging in a graceful way is part of project management.  You can find a schedule for nagging here.  Once properly populated the RACI chart (or its equivalent, after all it’s just a matrix) is a strong communication tool.  Many project managers make themselves bottlenecks by not communicating or publicizing the accountability structure.

If you are sitting in a project meeting and you don’t know the role of every meeting participant, there is a problem.  Project team members should not have to go to the project manager to find out “who to contact for this” or “who is responsible for that” unless there are special circumstances.  This should be found on the RACI chart or some other documentation. 

In the absence of the public accountability documentation people will go to the “sure to be overworked” project manager or go to someone on the team they “assume” has the responsibility who may actually not be the correct person.  This absence of a public accountability structure creates extra, unnecessary communication, increases risks of the wrong person providing information and sometimes results in duplication of efforts.

Establishing crystal clear single point accountability for everything is work.  Some view it as frustrating work because of the tendency of some people to dodge accountability.   But for me, and I hope for you, identifying, tracking and catching accountability dodgers is fun work.

Fun!  Fun!  Fun!

Because the more you encounter accountability dodgers, the more fun it is to meet the challenge of gracefully tying them to the tree of accountability.  Tying them tight!  Watching them squirm and wriggle while tied to the accountability tree more than makes up for the effort of getting them accountable.  Clear single point accountability is to be savored and enjoyed by the project manager and worth all your effort to get it.  Successful delivery after that is the icing on the cake.

Copyright 2013 SEBA(r) Solutions Inc.  All rights reserved.

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