Managing a team has many challenges, two of which are the issues of accountability and finger-pointing. Accountability itself is often confused with responsibility. Here is a simple difference between the two terms. A person who is responsible is the one who completes a task, while a person who is accountable is the one who must answer to the authority.  Therefore, when someone completes a task, he or she is considered “responsible.” However, he or she might not be the person who is accountable, because the accountable person is the one who must respond to the authority. In a project, the ultimate authority is the sponsor. Depending on the task, the authority to whom an accountable person must answer to varies. For certain individuals, being accountable can be something new and frightening, which would very well lead to finger-pointing. A good project manager acknowledges the possibility of such happening and will do the best he or she can to ensure accountability is well respected in every task.

In general, there are four things that a project manager can do to increase accountability and reduce finger pointing.

Develop The Fundamental Philosophy Of Accountability

The management and the project manager should be on the same page on what the company’s philosophy of accountability is. It must be carefully drafted to ensure it encompasses both the conceptual and the practical aspects of a fair accountability philosophy. The philosophy should be fair to both the management and the team members. Moreover, it is much more than merely fulfilling deadlines and delivering outcomes. An element of task ownership should be present in the overall philosophy.

Communicate The Philosophy Of Accountability And The Consequences Of Lack Of Accountability

The project manager should find an effective and efficient method to disseminate the philosophy of accountability in a way that the team members would be able to internalize immediately and to implement on a daily basis. Team members should also be made aware of the consequences of lacking accountability, which should be previously discussed with the management.

Implement A Strong Leadership Model For The Team

A strong leadership requires flexibility while also maintaining firmness and positive encouragement. This being said a project manager should provide clear expectations for each team member while also considering possible risk scenarios and other changes that may occur. Team members should be reminded from time to time about the importance of the project and that their continued motivation to finish the tasks at hand is appreciated.

Measure Accountability Through Successful Outcomes

The progress of a project must be measurable and communicated to the management and team members. Before being communicated, the project manager has an opportunity to evaluate the task-doers’ accountability. Ask for each team member’s accountability status and take note of them. Communicating accountability throughout the organization plays an important role in the future performances, which is crucial to the project success.

Last but not least, a successful project depends on each team member’s degree of accountability, regardless of the size of the task. For this, a clear and well-communicated accountability philosophy, strong leadership, and a valid measurement of success should work as the necessary elements.