Even if you follow all the practices laid out in Holding People Accountable (Part 1), you may still find team members failing to deliver as promised. Don’t be surprised. Most of the time team members intend to deliver or act upon a healthy agreement, but poor professional skills or uncontrollable environmental issues derail the outcome and accountability falters.
If you are finding that accountability is still lacking be careful not to assume that the team member doesn’t care when they don’t deliver, as most genuinely do care and feel committed to both the project manager and the project. Instead, consider these top five reasons for missed accountability:
Perhaps one of the least enjoyable aspects of the project manager’s job in regards to failed accountability is analyzing the mishap’s implications and determining its root cause. The breakdown could simply be a fluke; or something or someone, including you, might truly be responsible. But remember, your mission is not to determine fault for the sole purpose of blame.
Consider the 1986 tragedy of the space shuttle Challenger. NASA collected data and immediately set to solving the reason why the explosion occurred, dismissing the media’s probe for who was to blame. That’s not saying individuals weren’t responsible for the disaster. However, if the engineers and scientists had sat around dwelling upon blame, they may have never been able to uncover what happened and how to avoid such future tragedies.
Once you have identified the root cause in a situation of failed accountability, you must establish another agreement. In addition to that agreement, what was originally promised is still required for your project’s success. But, this time you must more frequently check up on the project’s status to adequately monitor this second agreement.
Sometimes, despite numerous attempts to uphold accountability, a trend of missed commitments develops with individuals. While these situations may seem hopeless, remember, it’s your job to boost the team’s commitment level to achieve project results. Options include:
If motivation and coercion fail, and the negative trend continues to plague the project’s success, look for a different environment in which that troublesome employee may work or inflict the least amount of damage to the team’s productivity. The key is to reduce the impact or totally eliminate the source of accountability failure. Some project managers might think it’s OK to intimidate (physical threats or extreme verbal confrontations) someone into job commitment, but keep in mind that it’s illegal to do so. If you’re even tempted to follow such a path, remember that a better option is to seek the employee’s termination or an in-house transfer.
As the project manager, you must master the art of accountability. Despite challenges, you do have the ability to deliver on the expectations of your executives. When you’re feeling trapped, hopeless, and uninspired by your responsibilities as project manager, don’t give in. Instead, take the appropriate steps to successfully hold people accountable – it’s a big clue into how good project managers become great ones.