Don’t let collaboration cloud accountability.

Collaboration is the name of the game in business today.  We all know that two heads are better than one, and three heads are better than two.  That said, many organizations have taken the idea to an extreme, creating needless chaos and conflict.

In the spirit of collaboration, many bosses hesitate to specify who is in charge of a project.  They assign co- or tri-leaders, or they “empower” a team to self-lead.  As great as this sounds on paper, it usually falls short in reality.  When there is a difference in opinion or an impasse, who makes the call?  If a teammate is not delivering on commitments, who has the ability to take action?  If teammates perceive that they have the same responsibilities and are stepping on one another’s toes, who clears up the confusion?

We see it every day with our clients:  when multiple people are in charge, no one is.  For sure, collaboration is a beautiful thing, and necessary for business success.  But not at the expense of accountability and clarity on roles and responsibilities.  We believe the more effective model is to hold team leaders and project managers accountable for fostering collaboration within their teams --- and collaborating effectively across functional lines --- while maintaining a clear understanding of who is ultimately responsible for the outcome.