Join Bob McGannon for an in-depth discussion in this video Demonstrating responsibility: Taking ownership for what you do, part of Project Management Foundations: Ethics (2016).
- Taking responsibility, being accountable, displaying ownership. All of these phrases reflect your behavior when you're demonstrating responsibility as a project manager. It's most likely a trait that inspired your boss to select you for a project management role in the first place. Despite showing responsible behaviors in prior positions, you can fall into some traps as a project manager due to the varying challenges of the role. Here are some of the most common responsibility traps you can fall into as a project manager, and how you can avoid them.
First, seek to manage others versus assign blame. One of the biggest challenges you may face as a project manager, is that control of your fate is frequently in the hands of others. You assign tasks, track those tasks, and ensure progress is made toward your objectives. Yet, those tasks aren't always completed on time, or with satisfactory quality. These shortfalls happen regularly. Taking responsibility means you look to manage the situation instead of pointing fingers.
Like it or not, you're considered responsible for that missed task, as it's part of the project you're assigned to manage. The best approach is to ensure progress is being made, so check in with your team and see that they have the info and tools they need. If priorities for your team change, work with managers to try to resolve the conflicts, or work with your sponsor to reset expectations, or alter your plans. Speaking of altering your plans, that's the core of my second item.
You should adjust your plans versus cursing reality. As finely tuned as your planning may be, there are way too many factors that can influence your project to expect your plans to represent what will actually happen. It can be easy to find yourself holding onto your plans too tightly. If business conditions and priorities change, or you discover business or technical issues, admit to them, analyze their impact, and adjust your plans.
An ethical project manager will respond to changes as they occur, rather than react to issues that static plans can cause. Responding to things is at the heart of my third item. Be a supportive participant when responding to project situations. As a project manager, it can be tempting to jump in and get tasks done when your project gets behind. Although that has its benefits, there can also be a downside. Your team members might feel like their work is not appreciated, or that you have technical concerns with what they produce.
This is especially true if you've come from a technical background and the tasks you tackle are related to that background. Keep in mind, unless agreed ahead of time, the project manager is typically not expected to execute against tasks. It's certainly OK to help, but do so in a supportive way, communicating with your team members, and ensuring what you do is in sync with the work already performed by your team. Lastly, as a responsible project manager, always behave as if you are the center of all things related to your project.
If there's anything that can have a positive or negative effect on your project, you should pay attention to it and offer support. I do this even in situations where the work would be out of scope for what's traditionally assigned to the project manager. Remember, I suggest you offer support, not take over. It's a great way to help ensure you get the best outcome for your project. And there you have it. The guidelines for being responsible as a project manager.
Embrace these, and you'll rarely be questioned about your ownership or accountability when it comes to delivering your projects.
BONUS: In the bonus chapter, Bob answers seven questions about specific ethical dilemmas: sharing information, resolving conflicts over standards, communicating with stakeholders, reporting project status honestly, and more.
- Describe three ethical values used in project management.
- Identify three strategies for showing regard for time and brainpower when communicating.
- Explain the consequences of violating a mandatory ethical standard put forth by PMI.
- Summarize the characteristics of PMI’s aspirational standards.
- Determine whether a situation provides evidence for an aspirational standard.
- Recognize three common challenges present during projection initiation and planning.