Accountability. The one word that strikes fear into the hearts of most team members on any given major systems project? Accountability. But to my mind there is nothing more musical than when my client, or my direct project management, hold me fully accountable in my project role.
Accountability creates focus like nothing else. Accountability causes team members to review their work before presenting it as a finished product. Accountability requires that project staff check their facts before putting them in an email or stating them in a public meeting. Accountability focuses people on their tasks and contributions on every project.
What’s my definition of accountability? Put simply, accountability for a task requires that I be empowered to execute that task and provided with avenues to get assistance when I need it. Hold me accountable; but clear the hurdles that I cannot, so that I can complete the task timely and correctly. When an obstacle threatens my progress, ask me good questions and then offer to help. Don’t blame me if I make a mistake. Making mistakes is a stepping stone to learning and gaining experience. But do hold me accountable if I fail to ask for help and thereby spin my wheels. As Jørgen Vig Knudstorp, CEO of the Lego Group, so eloquently stated, “Blame is not for failure. It is for failing to help or to ask for help.”
I’ve worked on a number of very large IT system projects, and I’m now speaking more to business project teams than to IT. Often business staff is seconded to the project to work alongside their IT counterparts, but then not held accountable for their performance or decisions made. Lack of accountability is a disservice to this staff, and to the project. I’ve been on projects where organizational managers have used a large project as a dumping ground for their poorer performers. How does one hold this staff accountable for their performance on the project when their own management has never held them accountable for their organizational performance? How does the project satisfy mission-critical needs unless staffed by the brightest and best?
Accountability for project performance is paramount.
My advice to project team members: seek accountability. Or, as I recently read on a bumper sticker: provoke accountability. Ask for it directly. Volunteer for the tough assignments and then perform well. Your team members, your project management, and your organizational management will look for great things from you on the project and beyond.
[If you’re looking for an upbeat keynote speaker, an experienced seminar leader, an on-site project management coach, or an expert in project oversight and IV&V, you need look no further. Contact Merv to help guarantee your project delivery success.]
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