Being accountable as a customer

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.


5 Responses

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Paul Ritchie. Paul Ritchie said: Being accountable as a customer: When talking w/ Michael Krigsman (podcast here), I spent some time trying to driv… […]

  2. To add a bit more to this…

    You should only have one Accountable in the RACI. Additionally, it’s good practice to try to limit the Responsible’s to one, if practical


  3. I like your definition since it comes really close to the real life as I know it for 17+ years. Example: The people who develop the code in a Software project are “Responsible” for the code being developed. The Project Manager in a traditional project is “Accountable” that the required code is ready on time with the agreed upon costs (if you’re lucky).

  4. Accountability and responsibility has to blend with each other, As in Project management results are expected on a limited time frame with a limited budget, and the responsibility never ends it just goes to another field with the same impact.

  5. These two should always go hand in hand. Being accountable, you get to be responsible, and vice versa.

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