Accountability vs responsibility is an important component in project management. It took some time and effort to study and analyze project management career to understand and logically accept the fact that in the field of project management it is necessary to clearly understand the difference between accountability vs responsibility.
And, more specifically, if there are any problems during the project, is the project manager the default who has to pay the final price for failure, or is it a little more complicated? The most important problem we are trying to solve here is to clearly define and establish who is to be blame and bear risk if something goes wrong project execution.
You are managing a large integration project with over 15 different technology teams. It is clear that you may not be very familiar with every aspect of the integration process.
Obviously, like many other project managers, you heroically declare that everything that happens in your project is your responsibility, but since you cannot be everywhere at the same time, how do you deal with responsibility vs accountability. Is there a moment when things can happen under your supervision that you cannot and do not want to take responsibility for?
Different between accountability vs responsibility
A literature search highlights the fact that there seems to be no clear and unanimous definition of accountability vs responsibility. In fact, a quick look at dictionary.com clearly reveals the confusion when the definition of accountability is also explained in terms of responsibility and vice versa. The Oz Principle: Getting Results Through Individual and Organizational Accountability, it is in the author’s opinion that:
“Accountability can be assigned, but responsibility must be taken. In other words, responsibility can be assigned or received, even assumed, but this does not automatically guarantee that personal responsibility will be understood. This means that you can be responsible for something or someone, but still not be accountable”. With this interpretation of accountability vs responsibility in mind, it can be concluded that each person on the project team may be held accountable (as intended), but his or her accountability depends on their level of commitment and acceptance of such responsibility.
I am not happy with this definition as it simplifies things a bit. Can project managers get a “jailbreak card” based on the argument that their team has not exercised their right to take responsibility? This doesn’t seem right to me, so we need to dig a little further.
Managers and supervisors are not responsible for everything in their organization. Responsibility mapping ensures that responsibility rests with a person who can actually be held accountable for a specific job. This often leads to the fact that responsibility for action is reduced to the most appropriate level. This is an important point. Accountability is not necessarily at the very top, but rather is at the most appropriate level with the person who can be held accountable for the job.
Here let us further elaboration on the definitions of accountability vs responsibility as follows: The person in charge is the person who is ultimately responsible for an action or decision. This includes a yes or no right and a veto. Only one responsible person can be assigned to an action. The responsible person is the individual (s) who actually complete the task. The responsible person is responsible for action / implementation. Responsibility can be shared. The degree of responsibility is determined by the individual with the “responsibility.”
The above definitions provide a much greater level of clarity and are easy to understand in a project environment. But, going back to the scenario presented earlier in this post, can we now better understand whose fault it will be that the project is not implemented? Clearly defining the roles and responsibilities of the project (by publishing a detailed RACI chart) can greatly help eliminate ambiguity and misunderstanding.
Blame games and distribution of mistakes can only flourish in an environment where accountability vs responsibility is not clearly defined. If not properly transmitted, chances are good that it is you. the project manager, who will be asked to respond to the project sponsor’s note “please explain”. Therefore accountability vs responsibility is slightly different in words and meaning.