As a job profiling consultant specialising in project management, I often hear questions like, ‘Who is responsible for…?’ and ‘Am I responsible for…?’ As questions, they seem straightforward enough, but further consideration reveals the complexity that can underlie them. Perhaps the questioner is just filling an acceptable gap in knowledge, or a check on understanding, but the question may also be reflecting more deep-seated management, or indeed company culture related problems:
- confusion – nobody is clear who is responsible for what, and therefore who is going to take what action
- fear – of having to take on responsibilities for which one is not properly equipped
- anxiety – at having to be accountable for the discharge of the responsibility
- concern – at the possibility of having to be accountable, without having discharged the responsibility oneself
- anger – at having to take on responsibility that one feels should be discharged by someone else for a variety of reasons
- frustration – trying to find out who is responsible in order to get action taken, make a complaint or obtain redress
- ignorance – of the way in which responsibilities have been delegated or distributed and therefore who should be discharging them
- obfuscation – when debates about who is responsible result in, or are used to explain, delays and inaction.
Perhaps you recognise some of these?