Responsibility, Authority and Accountability

A person has responsibility for a task if:

  • He/she is given sufficient authority to perform it
  • He/she is accountable for its completion

A person has authority to perform a task only if he/she is has adequate control over the resources necessary to complete the task. A person is accountable for a task if failure to adequately perform that task carries professional consequences.


Delegation is assigning the responsibility for a task to a team member. When delegating a task, the project manager must ensure that the team member has the authority to perform it and is accountable for the results.


When the project manager creates a document, holds a meeting of interest to others, or makes an important project decision, all of the information produced should be shared and used with everyone involved in the project. All work products should be public

  • All team members, senior managers and stakeholders should have access to every work product produced for the project.
  • Project managers and team members benefit because they make more informed decisions.
  • Senior managers and stakeholders are always kept informed.

Decisions should be made based on known guidelines

  • Published standards documents help others understand the way certain roles must be filled.
  • Documents should be based on templates when possible.
  • Process documents ensure that each project is done using a repeatable process.
  • Use performance plans to set expectations for individual team members.

Manage the Organization

Prevent senior managers from seeing software projects as a cost burden

  • A project is successful if its costs are justified by its benefits.
  • Establishing a track record of successful projects is the most effective way for a project manager to reverse dangerous attitudes in senior management.

Show senior managers the impact of their decisions

  • Decisions are frequently made based on gut feelings instead of objective analysis.
  • The people making decisions about the project need to understand the details.
  • Show senior managers that improving project management practices will help them meet their goals.

Don’t confuse flexibility with always saying yes

  • Don’t agree to an unrealistic schedule.
  • Change your approach when necessary.
  • Don’t confuse “easy to describe” with “easy to implement.”

Manage Your Team

Avoid common management pitfalls

  • Don’t manage from your gut.
  • Don’t second-guess estimates.
    • Remember Brooks’ Law: “Adding manpower to a late software project makes it later.”
  • Don’t expect consensus all of the time.
  • Make your mistakes public.
  • Accept criticism.

Avoid micromanagement

  • Don’t expect to review everything
  • Don’t fall into the “hands-on manager” trap
  • Use transparency to your advantage
  • Don’t be afraid to let your team members make mistakes

Address performance problems early

  • Work with each team member to develop a performance plan.
  • Set standards that are fair and attainable.
  • Measure each team member’s progress against known and agreed-upon goals.
  • Correct performance problems as early as possible.

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