Getting things done through others can be the most satisfying or the most frustrating part of our work life.

As a Project Manager, I am often responsible for reporting to stakeholders on the progress the team is making on the project. My job is a whole lot easier when the individuals accountable for the work get the work done when they committed to get it done, at the quality expected by the organization.

Things get difficult when that work doesn’t get done as committed to.  As the the person accountable for reporting status my role becomes a bit of a verbal balancing act. I have to let my stakeholders know that the work that was committed to get done by a certain date is not done. At the same time I can’t throw the team member under the bus who failed to deliver the work as promised. The whole thing starts to boil over for me when the person who failed to deliver is unapologetic and dismissive of letting the team down.

The above scenario isn’t a singular anecdote from one frustrating project. In my 17 years of leading projects I’ve seen it occur many times.  As the Project Manager, I have a responsibility to work with the challenging party. Sometimes, the organization itself enables the behavior. There are tools to help the Project Manager, such as RACI tables (Responsible | Accountable | Consulted | Informed.) But tools only take us so far.

I suggest that creating a strong culture of accountability will significantly increase project success. Aligning individual performance appraisal with project performance helps. Enlist the help of the team member’s manager to ensure that she is aware of what their direct report is accountable for on the project and determine a realistic game plan for successful delivery.  Be sure that the team member is aware that his lack of accountability impacts the entire team and doesn’t go unnoticed.

What has been your experience and what has worked for you?

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