Dealing With Accountability in Project Selection

Dealing With Accountability in Project Selection

Nikos Macheridis (Lund University, Lund, Sweden) and Johan Dergård (Department of Business Administration, Lund University, Lund, Sweden)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 16
DOI: 10.4018/IJITPM.2020010101
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The purpose of this study is to present a framework to assess how project individuals deal with accountability in project selection. The framework is designed based on project selection and accountability literature and empirical data. Empirical data was collected through semi-structured interviews with project individuals working at organizations operating in information technology and working with information technology projects. This method was chosen since the authors considered it to be appropriate for providing a deeper understanding of social phenomena through enabling the researchers to explore the views, experiences and beliefs of motivations of project individuals on specific matters. The framework reveals that project individuals use multiple strategies to deal with accountability, depending on audience and on forms of accountability. How project individuals deal with accountabilities depends on how trust, transparency and legitimacy are embedded in the different principal-agent relationships and the context that the project individuals are involved in during the selection phase.
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Globally, the importance of accountability is growing, e.g. in international development work regarding governance, democracy, and human rights (Carochers and Brechenmacher, 2014). Accountability refers to “the implicit or explicit expectation of decision makers that they may be called upon to justify their beliefs, feelings, and actions to others” (Lerner and Tetlock, 1999).

Accountability is treated in the area of project management, but to a limited extent (Burga & Rezania, 2017; Leong, 1991), and often as a structural consideration (Sohail & Cavill, 2008; Turner et al., 2010). One should expect that accountability should occur in this area to a greater extent as projects are context depended (Köster, 2010), project selection is linked to project effects (Macheridis, 2009), and project characteristics vary – being limited when considering duration, scope, financial resources and human resources; unique when considering objectives, context and organization; and risky when considering uncertainty and complexity (Köster, 2010). There is a research need for accountability in projects, especially to address the limited knowledge of their workings in practice (Brandsma & Schillemans, 2012; Burga & Rezania, 2017).

Individuals in different project situations have to deal with accountability. Such a situation is project selection, to which this study is limited. Project selection is the most important step in strategy implementation in terms of reaching organizational objectives (Abbasianjahromi & Rajaie, 2012). In addition, due to limited resources in combination with requirements for, e.g. sustainability and business ethics, project selection is important in the resource allocation process (Abbasianjahromi & Rajaie, 2012; Ahn et al., 2010).

The starting point for this study is the assumption that expectations of accountability affect decision making and how decisions are implemented in project selection (Tetlock, 1992). Project selection involves several difficulties for project individuals (Corvellec & Macheridis, 2010). Project individuals work with all kinds of projects and settings within an organization. They have to decide whether a project idea should be carried out or not and they are usually involved early in the project’s life cycle when the project only exists as a conceptual idea. Additionally, they have to evaluate the ideas according to several criteria, such as technical, financial, timing, organizational objectives, the market potential environment and the competence of the project team. Accountability is another difficulty in project selection, since it is a factor that influences project individual’s decision making.

The actions for which project individuals are to be accountable can be communicated either administratively or socially. This involves the obligation of an individual to justify their actions, accept responsibility for them an disclose the results in a transparent way. Moreover, each individual is accountable for actions related to a project’s characteristics, to the organizational context, to individuals outside the organizational context and for his/her professional specialization (Leong, 1991). This means that project individuals are held accountable by different accountability structures.

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