When you plan a project you must make some decisions. You must decide who does what and by when. Everyone knows this, but it is nevertheless done incorrectly all the time.
Many projects fail because objectives are vaguely formulated, or tasks and responsibilities are not clear. That is unfortunate. This costs time, money and image.
When work assignments are defined, it must be crystal clear who is responsible for their successful completion. Only one person can assume responsibility for the project – not two or three.
The responsible party does not have to do everything on his own.
Whoever assumes the responsibility does not have to complete all the work by himself. But he is responsible for making sure it gets done. Once he recognizes that the work cannot be completed on time, or not at all, he must inform all those involved and you as the assigning party. If the project has hit the wall, it is his job to bring about a decision for the next steps.
Two responsible parties?
Unfortunately it is common that two persons are designated as responsible parties for a task. Just recently I witnessed the following situation at one of my clients, a technical service enterprise. The list for important projects had two responsible parties assigned to a critical work package: Mr. Smith and Mr. Johnson. When I asked him about it, the Managing Director told me:
“The scope of this work package includes mechanical and electrical tasks. That’s why we assigned two responsible parties: Mr. Smith, our head for the mechanical engineering department, and our best electrician, Mr. Johnson.”
Can you imagine what happens if this project were to run into problems? In particular if the participants cannot decide whether the problem is of electrical or mechanical nature? Who, between the two of them, makes the decision then? Who is responsible for telling the Managing Director that the project will not be completed within the specified time, or that the project will unfortunately cost 30% more than originally planned?
Whenever several people are responsible for the same project, no one is truly responsible. There is a good chance that each will pass the buck in a crisis situation. No one decides. The other one is always at fault.
There can only be one!
This is how not to do it. When the responsibility for a project is at stake, you must always ensure:
“There can only be one!”
(Paraphrased from the Highlander).
If Mr. Smith is the party responsible for the project, and is well versed with the mechanical, but not with the electrical aspects, then he needs to ask Mr. Johnson for input and assistance. But the responsibility for the project remains with Mr. Smith. He is the one to decide for the project, and the one who must inform when something gets off track. There can only be one!
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