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Full-spectrum accountability (PRUB-accountability)

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Who is ultimately accountable for the processes associated with projects and their consequences? Surprisingly to some, the answer is that, regardless of how much of the process you seek to outsource, it is you, the purchaser, and not your suppliers, who will remain accountable.

Let’s follow the logic and the implications of this...

To be successful, any project, programme or portfolio (3Ps) of work needs to be well governed. This means that ‘someone’ needs to be responsible for each and every element of the 3Ps and ensure that that element is well governed, that it builds successfully on previous work and that it contributes effectively to subsequent work or to end-uses and outcomes. This, in essence, is accountability.

Accountability can be expressed in two ways: effectiveness (making sure the right things have been done) and efficiency (doing those things in the right way).

Thus, establishing accountability in any project requires four distinct stages:

  1. Identify the effectiveness and efficiency that is required. In other words, making sure you have established the scope and requirements and are clear about the project management you will adopt to realise the outcome.
  2. Value and prioritise what you are aiming to deliver. This relates both to your portfolio management - the priority you give to one project over another - and your scope and requirements - what your project is and isn’t going to deliver. It also relates to your project governance - since the value and the risk associated with the project will define how much governance it needs.
  3. Contractually specify the effectiveness and efficiency you are looking for. Focusing on just one of these two elements represents a shortfall in accountability. So, if you aren’t clear on the effectiveness then you will struggle as a contractor; equally if as a project owner or purchaser, you don’t look at the efficiency - the credibility of how your supplier is planning to deliver the project, then you may end up with the a contractor who patently can’t deliver under the conditions of the contract and may even go bust, as in the case of Carillion.
  4. Implement and achieve the desired efficiency and effectiveness. Implement and achieve mean that we are focused on both the delivery of the project and the realisation of the benefits associated with it.

The supplier has no accountability for Points One and Two, unless - as is increasingly the case - they are being brought into the project at conception phase. Equally, their accountability in Points Three and Four is limited to the delivery phase of the project and assuring the right thing is delivered in the right way and this remains shared with the purchaser throughout. Once they have delivered the project, accountability for what happens, how the project is used and the benefits that accrue is back with the purchaser.

Of course, there are shades of grey and this oversimplifies some of the working arrangements on projects. But is does offer a useful focus for project purchasers both in terms of their continuing and overwhelming accountability for any project they initiate. It also serves as a useful caveat for the risks of how much of the lifecycle of any project you outsource and the extent to which accountability for effectiveness or efficiency can ever be transferred.

My forthcoming APM webinar (22nd February 2018) and new book (publication by mid-2018) will demonstrate how what I have called PRUB-thinking (Projects create Results that enable Uses which create Benefits) clarifies accountabilities in projects and programmes. 

Indeed, by simultaneously and seamlessly inter-linking the following nine stages from initial stakeholder engagement through strategy development, contracting, implementation and performance management, it offers a model for strategy validation, delivery and benefit realisation

  1. Engaging with end-users to determine what they want to do and why (Uses and Benefits)
  2. Engaging with service suppliers to determine what they can potentially provide (Projects and Results)
  3. Developing and validating strategies (logically linking Projects and Results to Uses and Benefits to create SubStrategies)
  4. Developing business cases (valuing the SubStrategies)
  5. Making funding decisions (selecting SubStrategies for investment)
  6. Developing contracts (specifying how SubStrategies will be implemented)
  7. Implementing strategies (implementing SubStrategies)
  8. Performance monitoring and management (monitoring and improving implementation of individual SubStrategies)
  9. Reviewing and updating strategies (reviewing, updating and perhaps replacing suites of SubStrategies)

In doing so, I bring together the worlds of stakeholder engagement, strategy, decision making, project management and performance management and guide organisations to develop, validate and implement portfolios of projects that meet the strategic needs of organisations and the customers.

Webinar and UK Visit

You can join Phil’s 22nd February APM Webinar by registering here

If you would like to meet Phil when he is in the UK in May, please contact Merv Wyeth or Neil White, Benefits Management SIG, who are coordinating Phil’s schedule. Phil will be available to run 3 day Validating Strategies Practitioner courses (Certified by the Cologne University of Science, Technology and the Arts), shorter introductory courses or evening/breakfast events.



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  1. Garth Ward
    Garth Ward 01 February 2018, 09:58 AM

    I like the simple model. It an effective way of summarizing that it's all just project management.