When talking w/ Michael Krigsman (podcast here), I spent some time trying to drive home my belief that customers must own their projects more. IMO, part of the problem is driven by the confusion between accountability and responsibility.
Wideman’s invaluable Comparative Glossary of Project Management provides definitions of accountability that are useful:
Accountability: Being answerable to one’s superior in an organization for the exercise of one’s authority and the performance of one’s duties. OR Being answerable for results.
“Being answerable” gets to the ownership that accountability is all about. Unfortunately, many definitions of responsibility muddy the waters:
Responsibility: The duties, assignments, and accountability [emphasis mine] for results associated with a designated position in the organization.
Throwing in “accountability” contributes to the confusion many have. In some ways including accountability in responsibility makes it sound, well, less-than-accountable. Here’s how I try to keep it simple:
- Responsible = Those who do the work in question.
- Accountable = The one who signs off on the work that “Responsible” provides.
When managing vendors and integrators, we have to remember that as customers we need to make sure that we’re always the “A” in the RACI.