Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Accountability and Responsibility on Projects

Project Sponsors, Project Managers and Project Team Members share responsibility for project success.  However, they don't share Accountability and this raises many questions.  First, understand that although 
Accountability and Responsibility are often used interchangeably, they are not interchangeable.

Responsibility can be shared.  As I mentioned, many players on a project are responsible for project success.  This includes the sponsor, the project manager and the project team.   

Final Accountability rests with the sponsor.  Success or failure of projects is critical and only the sponsor can hold this level of accountability.  In fact, the dictionary definition of sponsor is "One who assumes responsibility for some other person or thing".  Because of their final accountability, the sponsor will make sure project managers and teams are properly trained, and that they receive all the necessary coaching, mentoring, and support as they begin their project.  On-going monitoring is critical to ensure the sponsor is aware of any problems, issues or concerns in the management of the project so that they can take action to improve performance.   

The project manager is accountable for project success.  They must ensure that they understand the project requirements and that they execute the project within the parameters set out by the sponsor.  They cannot pass on blame or excuses for poor project performance. 

The project team members hold responsibility to ensure their project tasks are successfully completed within the constraints of time and budget allocated to them.  They must be provided with the training, coaching and mentoring to ensure they can adequately complete these assigned tasks.  Since the project manager is accountable for project success, they will ensure this training, coaching and mentoring is provided.  As well, the project manager will continuously monitor project team member’s progress towards their task completion.

Accountability  can't be shared. We often hear the term "shared responsibility", but there is no such thing as "shared accountability".  It is the "ultimate responsibility".   Former President Harry S. Truman said "The Buck Stops Here". That is probably the clearest and most well-known statements of accountability ever made, and it leaves no doubt in one's mind as to where the ultimate responsibility lies.