Why Is Accountability So Important?

Any manager worth their weight in salt will assign authority to match responsibility for tasks they assign to team members. To do less than this only sets the other person up for failure. But along with authority and responsibility comes accountability – the understanding by all that the person assigned the responsibility is accountable for meeting their commitments and producing results. All too often though, and I’ve seen it happen repeatedly in every one of the eight industries I’ve worked in, a task is assigned to someone and they commit to completing the task but then .......nothing happens!

How many of us have seen a commitment made by someone in a meeting without a target date being set for completion? Or a course of action being identified without it being assigned to any one person for ownership and ultimate accountability? My experience has been that, in these situations, the likelihood of the necessary follow up action being taken - as required or as promised - is remote. People are busy and if you aren’t tracking commitments that other people make to you, they may not deem those commitments with as high a priority….and be only too happy to let them slide or possibly not complete them at all. I’m sure you’ve seen commitments being made haphazardly by someone who has no expectation that anyone will actually track what they have committed to. Wally in Scott Adam’s Dilbert cartoon strip has this perfected to a fine art.

In order for a project to move ahead successfully, each task or action must be assigned so that one person is given ownership of it, along with a target date for completion and the appropriate responsibility, authority, and accountability. This is the first step. After a task has been assigned (by a manager or a group), there must be some form of follow up to confirm that the work is actually being done. This is where I’ve seen countless repeated occurrences of issues being dropped – because they are forgotten or outright ignored.

It never ceases to amaze me how often a lack of accountability comes up in a business day. Quality output and the successful completion of any project depends on people living up to their commitments. That’s the grease that makes a team work well together. When people fulfill their commitments, they are showing everyone else that they’re reliable and that they respect the person they’ve made the commitment to.

Why an I writing about this? Because it rests at the heart of success on any project. If your team members are all conscientious and focused on getting their tasks done, a lack of accountability will be a minor issue. But occasionally I’ve seen people make shallow promises that they know no one else will actually keep track of. That would entail someone else having to manage them - which they know - we’re all too busy to do. Enter Projecteze.

The Projecteze organizational system that I describe in my book “On Top Of Everything” is all about helping people like you and me - who are relying on others to come through on their commitments - to be able to track, monitor and follow up with others on their commitments in a diplomatic and friendly way. This process really helps to reinforce accountability and it’s done in a simple, non-confrontational way that prevents anything from slipping between the cracks.

Under the assumption that most of us are well meaning, the ball can get dropped simply because of the overwhelming volume of things we each have to do in a day. As a manager who has assigned tasks and received commitments, I want to help foster success for everyone on my team and I can do that by simply touching base with my people regularly for updates on their deliverables and by proactively helping them stay on top of the tasks and target dates they’ve committed to. The Projecteze system allows me to do that very easily and very effectively.

It is up to everyone on a project team to meet their obligations, but it is also up to everyone on a team to hold each other accountable in a manner that fosters strong relationships within a supportive, congenial and productive working environment that everyone can be proud of. This combination can be dynamite!


Laurence Seton, P.Eng., PMP is the President of Projecteze Inc. and is the author of On Top Of Everything: Manage Your Projects & Life With Ease. He helps busy people learn the skills to get and stay organized and on top of everything at work, at home and at school using Projecteze: The Ultimate Organizational System. Follow Laurence on Twitter and Facebook.

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