Executing a project without any form of accountability is like working without a safety net. Yes, you can get things done, but things can become disastrous if anything (or anybody) slips. Nobody knows or can prove who is responsible for what, fingers get pointed, and team cohesion (not to mention your client relationship) falls apart.
In the end, the project manager will get most of the blame. And rightly so, because he should’ve been exercising the three “D’s” of project accountability.
The concept is pretty simple: when you ask someone to do something, tell them when you need it. Project managers are pretty good at this when it comes to the more obvious project tasks. But when it comes to tasks that are indirectly related, like a contacting a client or submitting a report, we assume the other party will get to it in a reasonable time—even though they’re too busy, stressed, or forgetful to remember. And when it does slip, you’ll have no deadline by which you can hold them accountable.
When you give a deadline for everything, you’re automatically marking the task as important enough to track. They’ll be encouraged to put it on their calendar, and if you work with software you can create email notifications to remind you.
This is probably the most important lesson you can take from this blog post. Document everything. Had an important meeting? Take notes. Exchanged emails? Print it out and save it in your project file. Client gave brief verbal feedback? Transcribe it in your task’s “notes” section.
Every piece of documentation, whether it’s a note, a report, or an email, has to have three vital components:
1. The names of the participants
2. The date the event occurred
3. The information (whether it’s a report or a conversation).
The final “D” really depends on the document’s purpose. If you’re documenting progress by updating task notes on a regular basis, then you might consider giving the client access to your project management software. If your meeting notes are internal, then you’ll want to restrict your distribution list to your team. And if you’re taking notes for yourself, as CYA protection against crazy clients, then you’ll want to keep your email archive to yourself.
Keep in mind, however, that information doesn’t do anybody any good unless it’s widely available. Teammates will want to refer to your notes, and sending out alerts every once in a while is a good way to promote accountability in the team.
Image credit, Flickr, a2gemma