Make Project Team Leaders Accountable and Responsible for Results

Project team leaders need to know what results are expected and who is accountable for them to be successful.

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If I asked each of your project managers exactly what they were accountable and responsible for, would they know? Could they list out what targets, goals and results they were trying to accomplish on the projects they are working on? One of the biggest problems business owners and managers have is to get their people to be accountable. But this epidemic problem is also one of the easiest challenges to fix.

To make your project team leaders responsible for achieving results, they need to know what results are expected and who is accountable for them.

When your team leaders don’t know what they’re accountable or responsible for, and don’t have specific targets or goals, how can you expect them to achieve the results you want? Start by making it very clear what your people are expected to achieve on their projects. If you want a project to be completed on July 1, write it out with large letters on a poster board for all to see. Then everyone knows the date without any misunderstandings.

If you want the project manager to make a certain profit on a job, write it boldly on a chart for all to see on the office wall. That way, everyone knows the goal and stays focused on hitting the target. If you want to meet or beat your estimated crew hour goals on a certain job, give your project team leader a scorecard with the total job hours as a target and then keep him updated every week on how well the crew is doing.

Project Manager Job Descriptions

Everyone in your company needs a detailed job accountability and responsibility scorecard listing out what they’re accountable and responsible for. Instead of generic job descriptions that aren’t specific enough, take time to develop exactly what you want your people to do and accomplish.

For example, a typical ineffective project manager job description says things like: The project manager has a key role as captain of the team. The project manager is the common link from business development to project completion. Blah, blah, blah.

This type of job description becomes a list of big words that no one can understand or get their hands around. What you need are lists of what you want your key people to do and what they are responsible for. With short and impactful lists of accountabilities, they know if they achieve their goals and how they are going to be judged.

For example, an effective job description for a project manager should be written as follows: The project manager is 100 percent accountable and responsible to: finish projects on or under budget; write all required subcontracts and purchase orders within the first 20 days of starting projects; maintain and update project budgets and job cost reports by the 10th of every month; invoice customers by month-end; document all project issues, notices, change order requests, requests for information, etc., within three days of occurrence or per contract; etc.”

Who’s Accountable and Responsible?

When I work with company owners and managers, I ask who’s responsible for a safe jobsite, quality, meeting budget or finishing on time. They typical answer is “Everyone!” When everyone is responsible, no one is responsible.

Only one person can be accountable for each thing that happens on your jobsites. Only one person actually directs the field workers to do quality work without mistakes. When project managers don’t do the final walk-through with project owners, they are not accountable for getting their crew’s work approved. And when not clearly accountable for poor workmanship or call-backs, project managers don’t take time to make sure quality work is performed and no punch-list items exist before they leave the jobsite.

Who is really responsible for project safety? The project manager is responsible for the safety of crews and must be the ultimate responsible person in charge of the jobsite at all times. If the project manager is not sure, he may assume that someone else is watching safety for him.

What’s Important Must Be Identified and Tracked

In order to get project crew leaders to accept accountability for results, they must be clear on what they’re responsible for. One of the best exercises I do when coaching companies is to get all the project managers together to make a list of everything required to meet project goals, including:

  • Budget vs. actual job costs.
  • Schedule and completion dates.
  • Quality and workmanship.
  • Safety.
  • Contract management.
  • Invoicing and payment.
  • Customer satisfaction and relationships.

Next, decide what makes for excellent performance in each category and assign a responsible team leader. For example, the team may decide in order to achieve the project budget, they must get together and review the bid estimate at job start-up and then decide on an actual job budget the team works together to achieve. Then the team determines the project manager is accountable to create, maintain and track a budget vs. the actual job cost report to be completed by month-end and then reviewed with the team.

Another example: To maintain a safe jobsite with zero accidents, the project manager is accountable to do a daily job walk to inspect for safety concerns and violations, and turn in a weekly report of the findings.

Another example: The project manager is assigned the responsibility to maintain and track the overall project schedule, meet the completion date, and turn in a weekly four-week look-ahead schedule every Friday as part of his job description.

In only a few hours, you can make a complete list of what you want each of your leadership positions to be accountable for. Then you can have exact results to hold your project leaders responsible for.