~ By Brad Egeland
As project manager, we have many hats to wear. I don't think anyone will dispute that fact. We are decision makers, deadline enforcers, meeting facilitators, status reporters, cat herders (at least it feels like it sometimes), conflict resolvers, resource managers, customer service representatives, negotiators, mentors, and then one final hat that says "everything else!"
What I'd like to discuss in this article is the way we must serve the project and everyone working on it well, by ensuring that everyone remains accountable for their responsibilities to us and to the project. There are several different roles and/or groups of individuals who are included in those that are responsible for the project's overall success - and it's these individuals who we must ensure accountability from. I'd like to look at each of these groups separately and discuss how we work to ensure their accountability both for their responsibilities and for the overall success of the project. I also look forward to our readers' feedback on any other areas of accountability they deem critical that I may have missed…as well as our readers' own strategies for ensuring accountability from these important project resources and stakeholders.
The most common enforcement of accountability for any project manager will always be among his own project team members. That's usually where more than 90% of the project schedule tasks are assigned as these talented individuals are the ones tasked with truly getting the project solution ready for deployment. But often these individuals are assigned to your project in a matrix environment and may be assigned to two or three other projects at the same time. How do you keep them focused on your project and keep them accountable to your tasks? The key for me is two things…
Conduct weekly team meetings. By scheduling weekly internal team meetings with your project team, you are serving two very important purposes. First, you are getting up to date information every week for your project status report and project schedule that you then revise and give to the project customer in advance of the formal project status call. Second, you are forcing your team members to be ready and accountable to you every week for the tasks that they have been assigned. Every week they know you're expecting an accurate update on task statuses…there's really no way for them to avoid that accountability.
Rely on team members to present during customer status calls. Nothing keeps a project team member focused, on task and up to date like forcing them to give their latest and greatest status on their big tasks straight to the project customer during a formal weekly status call. I've always found this to be one of the best ways to keep my team moving forward, making progress on their assigned tasks, and staying accountable and up to date for the success of the project.
I realise that the dream of many project managers and project teams is less oversight and involvement from the project customer. And when you're dealing with a customer who is questioning everything you do, and micro-managing you and your team that is probably true. I've had my share of customers who I wish would just go hide under a rock for a while so that my team and I could get some real work done. However, in general, the most success on projects is realised when the customer is fully engaged and involved on at least a weekly - if not day-to-day - basis. Why? Because they are needed for quick information, decision-making, requirements clarification, and information dissemination.
How do you keep the customer engaged? For me, it's two-fold - always schedule weekly status meetings with them and never cancel so they don't get in the habit of giving that time away to something else AND keep assigning some project tasks to them - even if you have to make up some small tasks to give them. That way they are always accountable to you to report progress on the weekly status call. Make their input a regular discussion point on the status report and agenda so as you're running through the topics they know they'll be expected to report. Works every time.
So far we've examined the need to keep our project team and customer engaged and accountable for their tasks and time…as well as ways to help ensure that accountability. In Part 2, we will discuss two more entities: the end users and other stakeholders, and our own executive management team members.