Project management and accountability

Who’s to blame if something goes wrong with a project?

I recently went on a project management course where I repeatedly heard the phrase ‘As a PM, that’s not your problem’. But I have to say that this goes against how I feel about the role of the Project Manager because, for me, accountability is the foundation of what we do. The subtext of saying something isn’t ‘your problem’ is that you don’t ultimately have ownership of the output of the project — and that just doesn’t sit well with me.

Overall responsibility for a project can be shared, but accountability can’t. In a digital agency, it’s PMs who are accountable because they’re directly answerable to the client as a representative of the team. And so you can bet it’ll be you feeling most stressed if the project isn’t going to plan…

Whether you’re working in a Waterfall or Agile project, it’s up to the Project Manager to ensure the team do what they have committed to, with the team members accountable for their individual tasks, and the Project Manager accountable for the overall delivery of the project. Although we should of course feel like we can rely on the team to do their part, the fact is that, at the end of the day, everything to do with the project is our problem. And we’re the ones who’ll have to face the client and shoulder the blame if things go wrong.

This is why it’s so importance to clearly define roles and responsibilities at the beginning and also to regularly check in with one another on the project progress. Ensuring all team members are fully aware of what they are accountable for makes everyone’s jobs easier, ensures you can head off problems early and, most importantly, keeps the project on course to be delivered on time and on budget.