Despite the importance of accountability for the oversight of projects, few studies have directly examined accountability mechanisms at the project level. While the literature already provides descriptions of governance and mechanisms of accountability, the purpose of this paper is to examine how project managers view their accountability relationships within their organizational context.Design/methodology/approachThe study is guided by critical realism as a philosophy of science. The authors interviewed 15 project managers from 12 organizations and analyzed the transcripts in the light of existing project management accountability literature.FindingsThe authors observe the practice of socializing accountability through face-to-face negotiation and symmetries of power due to interdependencies happen to some extent in management of projects. This suggests ambidexterity in accountability in project-based organizations. Therefore, the current models of project accountability and governance that are solely based on the agency theory are not sufficient to explain the accountability relationships in such organizations.Practical implicationsAccountability arrangements happen within a system for steering projects. Managers should be aware of how project managers view their accountability and how socializing practices of accountability can help the project’s management and the organization’s management interact in order to transform organizational systems by regulating issues of project concern and defining the process and direction of how project deliverables are produced, introduced, absorbed and used within the organization.Originality/value“Theory driven” interviews and analysis are used to confirm or refine conceptualization of accountability in management of projects. Most models of project governance are based on the agency theory or governability theory. The authors have demonstrated that socializing practices of accountability should be included in investigating project governance. The authors observe that project managers are often concerned with the interdependence with their principals and the socializing processes of accountability that arise from this interdependence.
International Journal of Managing Projects in Business – Emerald Publishing
Published: Nov 18, 2019
Keywords: Accountability; Agency theory; Project control