Whose Fault is This, Anyway?

Andy Jordan is President of Roffensian Consulting Inc., an Ontario, Canada-based management consulting firm with a comprehensive project management practice. Andy always appreciates feedback and discussion on the issues raised in his articles and can be reached at andy.jordan@roffensian.com. Andy's new book Risk Management for Project Driven Organizations is now available.

Twenty years ago, I started a new job. When I met with the general manager on the first day, he said to me: “I trust you to solve problems, what I need you to tell me is whose fault the problem was.” Twenty years ago, that was a rather outdated notion--and today it should be long forgotten. But I still hear it today, albeit not as often. I have no intention of turning this article into an “it’s not about who to blame, it’s about how to solve things” lesson--you know that already. However, I do want to address the issue in that GM’s statement that gets lost behind the headline--the fact that he didn’t know whose fault it was!

Now while “blame” is obviously not a constructive term to use in establishing where things went wrong, the fact remains that every element of a project should have clearly defined owners. If it isn’t clear where that ownership lies, then there is a fundamental problem in the way that the project is structured. In this article, I want to look at how we can establish that ownership as well as how we can ensure that the model is applied effectively.

Accountability and responsibility
Let’s start by looking at the concept of responsibility and accountability. These terms are related, but they aren’t the same:

  • The person responsible does the work
  • The person …

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"It's not whether you win or lose, it's how you place the blame."

- Oscar Wilde

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