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Abdicating responsibility while maintaining control

I’ve had this idea in my head for a few days now, but I just had to get it out. I was involved in a monster sized project recently. The whole thing spanned six months from planning to implementation. Now that it’s finally over, I had hoped to move on and maybe even relax a bit.

But now there’s a snag.

One stakeholder had decided to make changes to the finished product, even though the person had an opportunity to do it in the previous months. The weird twist? This stakeholder is supposed to be maintaining the finished product. It’s this person’s job. But they want my partner and me to do it for them. They want to abdicate any responsibility whatsoever while still maintaining control of this thing.

What kind of person does that? The way I see it, you can do one of two things.

  • One, you can take responsibility for the project from here on and you can be in the driver’s seat.
  • The other option is that you hand off responsibility and control for the whole shebang.

But mix and match doesn’t work here. Pick one and stick to it.

What do you think? Am I crazy (well, I mean more than normal!)? Is it too much to ask for people to maintain a semblance of responsibility for something that’s assigned to them? Drop a comment below.

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  • 4 thoughts on “Video: Project Management-Responsibility and Control

    1. I think you are absolutely right, Ben. There is no middle ground in this situation, and you are correct that this stakeholder has to be told that. The problem I encountered in my previous job – where this type of situation happened far too many times – is, what happens when the stakeholder just says “no” and continues down the path of incorrect insistence? THAT happened to me many times as well. I had no fear of telling my owner that he was wrong, but when I just said, “I don’t care, this is what I want,” I was stymied about what to do. I hope you have a better situation and would be interested in hearing the outcome.

      I’m glad your hand is better.
      .-= Joan Ginsberg´s last blog ..HRevolution – The Future of HR =-.

      • @Joan I have a flamethrower and a pack of slavering weasels just in case the person continues to be tough to get along with. Seriously, I am going to push the changes back to them. This was a very special situation and it is not worth the trouble of making extra changes over and over. Remind me to tell you about it in person sometime. :-)

        @Trish I’m close enough to the issue to know that none of the other factors were in play. Lack of care or laziness is all I can figure. Yes, I’m being callous, but they had multiple opportunities and waited until all of the very difficult (and even harder to redo!) work was complete before adding in their changes. I could have handled one of the other problems if it wasn’t in their control… :-) Thanks for the input. Great perspective to have.

    2. Ugh- I feel like I’m going to make you frustrated with my answer. As I see it, you can certainly take either of the all or nothing approaches you mention. However, I think that in real life, it is rare that I have been successful with that approach (even when it’s the approach I KNOW I want to take).

      You may have already explored this but here’s what I would do. First, I’d want to talk with the other stakeholder to find out 1) what are the changes needed and 2) why didn’t the person bring them forward earlier. Maybe it was something beyond their control. Maybe another leader changed the dynamics for the stakeholder and now the scope of the project needs to change. Maybe a budget issue has changed the desired outcome. I see that happen in the workplace.

      Compromise, even though frustrating, can often be the best solution. However, if you question the person and feel like you’re being taken advantage of, then push back to the other two options.

      What do you think?
      .-= Trish McFarlane´s last blog ..Job Shadowing: Your Passport To Success =-.

    3. Purely by definition, one cannot abdicate and control at the same time.

      What you have is someone who is still controlling the situation. They are calling the shots to abdicate, which makes them still in control.

      Essentially you\’re dealing with bad leadership. Based on what you\’ve said, if I were you, I would stop thinking about the situation in terms of “control” and “abdicate”. These terms don\’t apply in the dimension you\’ve stepped into. I recommend thinking about how you are going to apply your leadership skills to “lead” yourself through the situation.

      I agree with Trish, I would think beyond the black and white of it, and think of a creative and diplomatic solution in which both parties achieve satisfaction.

      Keep us posted, I am curious as to how you\’ll deal with it.
      .-= Paul Smith´s last blog ..Workplace Utopia =-.

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