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SED Project Accountability: How to integrate accountability and transparency into the SED project cycle

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In developing countries like South Africa, socioeconomic development projects have the potential to significantly improve the quality of people’s lives.  In practice, however, the impact is often limited due to inefficiency, inequity, and insufficient accountability.  Barend Cronjé, CEO of CoLAB, a leading project implementation consultancy, looks at improving the outcomes through integrating accountability into SED projects.

Accountability is key to successful projects across all industry silos; but particularly so when running a sustainable and scalable socioeconomic development project. To understand how accountability works, we must make a distinction between an accountable person and a responsible person in a project team.

The accountable person is the individual who is ultimately answerable for the activity or decision. This includes “yes” or “no” authority and veto power. Only one “accountable” person can be assigned to an action. The responsible person is the individual (or individuals) who actually complete the task. The responsible person is responsible for action and implementation. Responsibility can be shared and the degree of responsibility is determined by the individual with the “accountability”.

There are myriad elements and actions that go into initiating, planning, executing, monitoring, controlling, and closing out a project. If no one is accountable, all resources, energy and effort to grow the initiative are simply ingredients in a recipe for failure. How can you ensure accountability on your project? There are three important things that can help ensure that accountability rules and your project comes to a successful fruition.


It is essential that an organisation’s leadership clearly establish and communicate why the company is undertaking the project and outline expectations to the project manager and the team. Taking a step back, in many cases, a project manager does not have any formal or legitimate power over project team members; and because of this, team members may not see the project’s importance or see it as a priority. Having leadership clearly outline the benefits of the project, the expectations leadership have, and their commitment to the project, will set the stage for project success. Upon going forward with the project, the project manager must realise his or her role as a leader. As a matter of fact, this person should not think of himself or herself as the project manager, but rather as the project leader. This way, the project manager remains the trusted advisor and custodian of the project blueprints.


It is imperative for an organisation to foster an environment of accountability among team members. The idea is to ensure your team understands what individual and team accountability mean, as it relates to the project. This means adopting a philosophy that success is dependent on more than just meeting timelines, going through the motions and ticking boxes. Project team members need to feel a personal obligation to deliver success. They must deliver the highest level of quality and commit to being personally responsible for the success of the project. This can sometimes mean tying the project’s goal to an individual’s value system and providing incentive for responsibility. Incentive can take the form of public recognition or may lead to other opportunities within the organisation.


To increase accountability on projects it is important to measure and communicate the project status often. Measuring and communicating can have the motivating effect of either a carrot or a stick. For those that are performing at a high level and contributing to the project’s success, their efforts are recognised and celebrated. For those who may not be performing at the required level, measurements and results communicated throughout the organisation can act as a wake-up call and get the team member refocused and on the right track.

Accountability is critical to the success of a project. Ensuring strong leadership support, a philosophy of accountability, and measuring and communicating results, will help to ensure you have the requisite accountability on your projects and help set you up for overall project success.

Clear determination of a project’s roles and responsibilities can go a long way towards eliminating any ambiguities and misunderstandings. An up-front determination of accountabilities and responsibilities is just the beginning, and this needs to be followed by a clear communication and acceptance of these roles and responsibilities by the assignees. Blame and apportioning of fault can only thrive in an environment where it has never been clear who is responsible and who is accountable.


CoLAB is a diverse project implementation consultancy offering maximum project success for every client. Our approach is strongly characterised by delivery, simplicity and accountability. Our philosophy is to provide immediate operational benefits, whilst balancing longer-term sustainability through progressive elaboration. CoLAB uses a set of ever growing and maturing integrated delivery frameworks to enhance client-required solutions. We are known as a market leader for our innovative contributions. We strongly subscribe to the integration of components required for an effective operational capability.

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