Posted by: Timm J. Esque | Posted on: November 9th, 2011 | 3 Comments
I recently ran across someone else’s project management blog lamenting how the role of PM can sometimes seem like glorified babysitter. This can be particularly true on projects that cut across organizational boundaries (are there any that do not?). While each project is a key responsibility for the PM, there may be contributors to the project who see it as a distraction from their “real job”. What can the PM do other than systematically nag these contributors about the tasks assigned to them? This is essentially a question about what PM’s can do to create accountability.
The best dictionary definition I’ve found for the word accountability is:
The quality or state of being accountable; especially: an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility to account for one’s actions. top blackjack
What I like about this particular definition is that it identifies the two very different reasons people are willing to be held to account- out of obligation or out of choice (willingness to accept responsibility). We’ve been polling our workshop participants and other audiences for over a year now about which they would rather have – a team of people who feel obligated to meet specific assignments, or a team of people who have chosen to make sure this project is a success. Guess which team PMs would rather work with? We wouldn’t ask of course unless we had some recommendations for what the PM can do to create an environment where contributors will choose to take responsibility.
Creating an environment of responsibility, and ultimately accountability, begins at the very outset of team formation. What the PM can do here is to communicate effectively to prospective and/or assigned team members not just what the project is, but why it is worthwhile and important for this project to be a success. As the leader, you are role modeling choosing to commit to the success of this project.
Next it is imperative that you have a way to ensure all of the contributors participate in creating the project plan. We recommend a technique called Map Day which is described in detail in my book No Surprises Project Management (ACT Publishing, 1999). Map Days can be very structured events with every contributor present for one or two full days, or they can be less structured 1-3 hour events. The key is that contributors leave with clarity not only about their specific role, but also about their interdependencies with other roles – the other members of the team. It is our experience that when people see where they fit into the larger project picture, they choose to take responsibility for more than just the part they have direct control over.
The third critical thing the PM can and must do to create an environment where contributors choose to take responsibility is to deliberately turn the project plan into a network of personal commitments between team members. Personal commitments will generally need to be made and reviewed on a short interval (often weekly) basis, so this last step is not something you complete in the up-front planning meeting, but rather a process that continues throughout the project. Anyone who has committed to complete something in the current week, is expected to show up to a very short review meeting and declare if they are done or not done. This meeting is also where new commitments for the next 2-4 weeks are made. The expectation for team members to hold themselves and each other accountable in these brief meetings are set back in the early planning stage, when people realize they are part of a network of people dependent upon each other in order for this worthwhile project to succeed. We’ve been helping PMs implement these practices for over 15 years now, and this works! Why be a babysitter when you could be a leader? real money slot machine app