~ By Brad Egeland
In Part 1 of this two part series on ensuring accountability on your projects, we examined the first two entities I was covering: the project team and the project customer. It's a given that their readiness, ongoing involvement and accountability is absolutely critical to the success of the projects we are managing at any given time. We obviously can't make it all happen on our own…not even close.
But the team and customer are not the only important ingredients. We also need the end users and other stakeholders on the project. Not daily, but these are all needed periodically for several critical inputs and tasks. And finally, we also need our executive management team and supervisors. Maybe only a couple of times during a project, but when they are needed…we may need them fast, so it's always important to keep them engaged.
Let's discuss these final two in more detail:
This one is a little trickier because they are only needed periodically. End users are going to be needed early on for requirements definition and later on for user acceptance testing (UAT) and then again at the time of deployment in most cases. Other stakeholders are the same way - they may be needed for deliverable reviews and sign-offs, periodic clarifications and decision-making, and for other tasks as needed. The key is to plan ahead far enough for when you will need them to ensure they are available and accountable. Build their tasks into the schedule and give them a 2 to 3 week heads-up prior to when their critical time or input is needed whenever you possibly can. And make sure you are using their time and input wisely so that they see their availability for ongoing contributions to the project as critical to its overall success.
We may think that our higher ups don't matter to our daily project management success. We may even think that our PMO director - if we even have one - is expendable. And in many cases they may be - I've had my share of ineffective PMO directors. But when you have good organisational leaders and tuned-in PM infrastructure leaders (i.e., a good PMO director who is actually filling the role as it should be filled) then they can really matter to the success of your project. How? Because they can knock down barriers, get customers back on track or help instil lost confidence on the part of the project client, and they can approve funding and timeframe changes that are essential to your project. And, for me, I've always found that the best way to engage them and keep them accountable to my projects and to keep them thinking in my - and my project's - best interest is to keep them up to date on my project status. I send them the weekly project status report every week. I disseminate key project information to them - especially on big decisions - as it comes up, and invite them to participate periodically on customer meetings. It's amazing how fast you can get those powerful individuals in your organisation to take action that benefits your project - like getting a key replacement resource or similar need - when you've required them to stay involved along the way.
You can't always guarantee accountability from everyone on your projects, but just like your own little kids, the key to keeping them involved, keep them out of trouble and keeping their toys picked up is to keep them busy and let them know thoroughly what is expected of them. As long as they are well informed as to what's expected of them - and that's our duty as the project leaders - then they are far more likely to comply and perform as expected - and to be fully accountable for their tasks that they've been given.