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Responsibility and Authority (& Accountability)
Great for the cororate environment,
Does it work at a construction site?

 

It depends on who you listen to. It's the new great concept in management, but will it work in construction? Using influence to persuade someone to do a job requires trust and trust takes time to build. In construction, at least two things are against this new method, 1) A relationship on a construction project with alternating personnel and 2) contractual time constraints require more of a "DO THIS, I'm the boss" get it done method.

Responsibility vs. Accountability

I found this definition floating around the Internet and thought it was worth restating,"The main difference between responsibility and accountability is that responsibility can be shared while accountability cannot. Being accountable not only means being responsible for something but also ultimately being answerable for your actions. Also, accountability is something you hold a person to only after a task is done or not done. Responsibility can be before and/or after a task."

Responsibility may be bestowed, but accountability must be taken. In other words, responsibility can be given or received, even assumed, but that doesn’t automatically guarantee that personal accountability will be taken. Which means that it’s possible to bear responsibility for something or someone but still lack accountability.

Specific project authority to assign responsibility on a construction project eminates from the project owner downward via contracts. Company authorities are set by individual company rules. There are many paths of authority delegation. What is most important is that authority is succinctly defined and all possible need for authoritative decisions is defined and both the project and company levels. It is critical that assigned responsibilities are accompanied with the need authority for accountability to work successfully. If instead of exerting authority you choose to influence their actions then you might review the influence model below:

The Influence Model

Assume that everyone can help you Influencing someone else – especially someone who seems to be "being difficult" – can make you feel upset, nervous, or unsure. However, don't write anyone off: approach this situation by looking at the other person as a potential ally.
Prioritize objectives In this step you need to identify why you are trying to influence this person. What is it that you need from them? What are your primary and secondary goals? Here, it's important to keep your personal wants and goals out of the situation. For instance, you may subconsciously want to be seen as "right," or you may want to have the "last word." These personal motivations often get in the way of effective negotiation. Focus on your work goals, and leave personal motivators or drivers aside.
Understand the other person's situation In this step, you need to understand your potential ally's world, and understand how he or she is judged. For instance, what performance metrics do they work by? How are they rewarded? These factors play an important role in what your ally can give, and what he or she might want from you in return. To evaluate this, ask yourself the following questions:
  1. How is this person "measured" at work?
  2. What are his or her primary responsibilities?
  3. Does this person experience peer pressure from his or her boss or colleagues?
  4. What is the culture of this person's organization?
  5. What does this person's boss expect from them?
  6. What seems to be important to this person?
You can also use empathy to step into the world of your potential ally, and to understand what drives his or her behavior. This step can be challenging; and it will determine whether or not you can identify what type of factors are important to them, which is the next step.
Identify what matters; to you and to them This is likely to be the most important step in the Influence Model. Here, you need to identify what truly matters to your potential ally. If you pay attention, you should be able to hear or see the things that this person values most. Cohen and Bradford identified five types of factors that are most often valued in organizations.

These are:
  1. Inspiration-Related Factors
  2. These are all related to inspiration, vision and morality/strength. People who value these factors want to find meaning in what they're doing. They may go out of their way to help if they know in their heart that it's the right thing to do, or if it contributes in some way to a valued cause. You can appeal to these people by explaining the significance of your project or request, and by showing that it's the right thing to do. Appeal to their sense of integrity and virtue.

  3. Task-Related Factors
  4. These relate to the task at hand and to getting the job done. Here, you'll want to exchange resources such as money, personnel or supplies. You could offer to help these people on a current project they're working on. Or you could offer your expertise, or your organization's expertise, in exchange for their help. Task-related factors are often highly valued in new organizations, where supplies and resources may be scarce, as well as by organizations or teams that are struggling to get the finances, supplies or information that they need. Keep in mind that an important task-related factor is challenge. Many people, especially those who want to test or expand their skills, value the opportunity to work on challenging tasks or projects.

  5. Position-Related Factors
  6. In this step you need to analyze what kind of relationship you have with this person. If you know him or her well and you're on good terms, you can directly ask him or her for what you need. If you're not on good terms, or you're a complete stranger, then you need to focus on building trust and building a good relationship before you move on to the final step. To do this, take time to get to know the person you're interacting with. Make sure you use active listening techniques when you're speaking with him or her. Also, develop your emotional intelligence skills, which will help you recognize not only your own feelings, but the feelings of those around you.

  7. Relationship-Related Factors
  8. Once you feel you know what your ally wants or needs, and you've determined what you have to offer, you can make "the exchange" and put your findings into action. (Our article on win-win negotiation can help you with this.) Make sure that when you make the offer or exchange, it's done in a way that builds trust. Show respect, empathy and understanding to the other person. Show your gratitude to them for helping you, and keep looking for ways to help others.

  9. Personal-Related Factors
  10. People who value relationships want to belong. They want strong relationships with their team and colleagues. so, make these people feel they're connected to you or your organization on a personal level. Offer them emotional support and understaanding. Use active listening, so that they can talk about their problems. And, say "thank you" to show gratitude for the good work they're doing for you, or have done for you in the past.

Analyze the relationship In this step you need to analyze what kind of relationship you have with this person/company. If you know him or her well and you're on good terms, you can directly ask him or her for what you need. If you're not on good terms, or you're a complete stranger, then you need to focus on building trust and building a good relationship before you can move on to the final step.
Make the "exchange Once you feel you know what your ally wants or needs, and you've determined what you have to offer, you can make "the exchange" and put your findings into action.

The Influence Model, also known as the Cohen-Bradford Influence Model, was created by Allan R. Cohen and David L. Bradford, both leadership experts and distinguished professors. The model was originally published in their 2005 book, "Influence Without Authority."


It is critical that project participants understand where their responsibilities lie and what is outside their fence of control.

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James G. Zack, Jr.
Executive Director
Navigant Construction Forum,
Navigant Consulting, Inc.
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