Originally Posted by Harvard Business Review’s Management Tip of the Day

The word “accountable” can mean different things to different people. This is why delegation often backfires: The person taking on the task doesn’t know how much authority she has. The next time you delegate something, be explicit about which of these three roles the accountable person should play:

  • Issue owner. In this role, the person has complete control over the decision. A full team may be assigned to help, but the issue owner can make the decision however she chooses.
  • Team coordinator. The person is an equal member of the team, with the added responsibility of logistics, such as scheduling and defining the agenda. She’s responsible for ensuring that there is a discussion, but she isn’t responsible for the outcome. If the team can’t come to an agreement, she must escalate the decision.
  • Tiebreaker. This person doesn’t have the absolute authority of an issue owner, but she’s more than just a coordinator. She’s responsible for helping the team reach a decision: In the absence of consensus, she makes the final call.

Adapted from “Accountability. Don’t Just Ask Who, Ask What,” by Bob Frisch and Cary Greene