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A colleague of mine that I am managing is very error prone. Some of the errors he makes are quite simple. To give an example, I asked him to .zip a bunch of files, when unzipping the files later on I found that files were missing. His attention to detail is just generally poor.

The problem that I am having is where I am now being made accountable for his mistakes, my boss feels that since I am managing him and responsible for delivering the work, I should always double check his work to make sure that it is complete. I do this sometimes but at other times I do not, since I do not want to be micromanaging him, it is just not my management style. I also feel that my colleague needs to take some responsibility for the quality of work he produces, if I am micromanaging him then there is something seriously wrong with that.

Is my boss right in saying that I should be double checking his work all of the time, and be accountable for his quality of work?

  • Could you connect this to practical problems in project management? I don't see any project implications. Would this be better suited to workplace stack exchange? – Mark C. Wallace Feb 27 '17 at 22:22
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    Being the case this question could've been asked from anyone (not only from a PM) I believe it'd fit better @ WorkPlace.SE. Happens that there are already plenty of questions there about accountability. One might fit your scenario. – Tiago Cardoso Feb 28 '17 at 0:19
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If you are the PM and he is a worker on your project, then you are 100% accountable for his work. Quality of performance is always variable. You need to know where in your capability you are producing lower quality than expectations and then you need to mitigate / cure it. In this case, if you have a known quality issue with the performance of a particular individual, then you need to 1) create a control point with his work such that nothing goes out until it is checked by a peer and 2) cure his performance issues through training, counseling. If #2 fails to produce results, then you either choose to continue his services while performing #1 at your expense and heartache or remove and replace.

This is the kind of PM choices we make every single day and it never stops.

  • Thanks for that David - should I be the one checking his work? That is what my boss is suggesting, it feels like micromangement. – bobo2000 Feb 27 '17 at 19:44
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    That's up to you. Any type of quality check by you or someone you trust would do the job. As far as your boss is concerned, he put you on notice about his work. So, it is YOU who is checking his work. How you operationalize that expectation is about how much risk you want to take on. It IS micromanagement and you need to let this guy know you're micromanaging him, you don't like it, his work warrants it, and you expect it to improve. – David Espina Feb 27 '17 at 19:50
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TL;DR

Your boss is half-right. You are responsible for ensuring your project has sensible process controls, but you personally double-checking someone's work is probably not the right process control.

A project manager is responsible for ensuring that there are process controls for the project. If you have a quality control issue, then it is certainly your responsibility to design or recommend a control to address it.

Analysis and Recommendations

Your responsibility for process doesn't mean you need to double-check a team member's work. It means that your project lacks adequate quality assurance, a Definition of Done, peer review, or any number of alternative automated and manual controls that would ensure that work increments are being successfully delivered.

That fact should receive your immediate attention. How you choose to manage the quality of the deliverables will depend on the controls you apply to your process, your organizational culture, and (quite possibly) whether you have any real authority to implement controls or replace resources when needed.

Even if you have no direct or delegated authority, it is certainly your job to:

  1. Communicate issues to senior management.
  2. Recommend process controls to the project sponsors.
  3. Ask for help from line management or senior management, especially regarding staffing issues.

If you're not doing at least some of these things, then you're allowing the problem to persist. That is something you should be held accountable for.

However, if you address the issues within your responsibility and limit of authority but senior management refuses to act, then that's a strategic decision outside your control, and you are not at fault (although you may still ultimately take the blame).

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<<Theory>>

Your boss is half-right, which means he is right. To answer your question, it is recommended to look at the organizational structure you, your team and your boss are in. If there is no structure, call it chaos. Your boss puts you in the seat of a full-time (not just coordinative) PM, with considerable authority (responsibility). You might be in a functional organization, where each employee has one clear superior (the PM, you)[1], unless your team members are for example colocated and there is maybe a organizational unit, i.e. department.

<<Reality>>

You must communicate the findings you have to senior management with a pinch of warning (risk). Additional, I would suggest you come up with a contingency plan. This is expected. Meanwhile, you are still accountable (or held) for the outcome of happenings and overall project success. Based on the situation, your boss (what is your boss, a senior pm, sponsor or director?) recommends you to double check his work. Simply put, that is what you are going to do for a week. You then report that you have double the findings and negotiate with him the next strategy...

<<Theory 2.0>>

If you have not, read about the so called "Set-up-to-fail syndrome" and double check with your current situation. Havard released "HBR's 10 MUST READS" series, here "On Managing People". Literally all chapters are good, but Chapter on "Set-up-to-fail syndrome" and "Managing Your Boss" can make a difference for you in the next weeks, albeit the title "On Managing People" is just a percentage of the PM pie.

<<Reality 2.0>>

Another last point. Are you sure that you reacted with a relaxed, thoughtful attitude toward your colleagues mistake? Form your description it does not look like it. A mistake is a mistake, if it was a mistake. On top of that, you have not made it. Who reported to your boss then, you? Or did your boss had the same finding? Now, how happy is your colleague with being known (and tracked)? He is going to be really scared, maybe. Overall, the fact that you wrote "you manage him", call him "he is error prone" and "errors he makes are quite simple." makes me doubt your qualities.

Ref

PMBOK 5th, PMI

Keywords: PMBOK, Functional organization, Matrix organization, Set-up-to-fail syndrome, Micromanagement

  • QA is not my strong point, but with that aside realistically the only way this would be resolved is to micromanage his work. Anyway we are looking for a replacement now. – bobo2000 Mar 1 '17 at 8:42

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