Best practice (both PRINCE2 and MSP) promotes a single point of accountability for the success of a project or programme which remains unchanged over the project life. PRINCE2 refers to this person as the Executive while MSP refers to them as the Senior Responsible Owner (SRO).
A single point of accountability ensures clarity of decision making and empowers the accountable person within the organisation. Consistency of this accountability throughout the project’s life ensures decision making consistency – the focus of the project, its objectives and the benefits it seeks, remain consistent throughout its life, or at least are not changed without due process.
Without such consistency of accountability, the direction and focus of the project may change. This is because the direction and specific focus that the accountable person brings to the project reflects their role in the organisation, and so may change if the accountable person changes. This is not ideal if the change detracts from a service outcome focus. Furthermore, transferring accountability from one person to another also runs the risk of blurring accountability since decisions at one point in the project lifecycle may have been shaped by those made under previous accountability arrangements.
It is also important to recognise that accountability is not about who to blame if things go wrong (although there is, of course, an element of that within the concept). Accountability is about empowerment. When an organisation has an agreed process for identifying the accountable person for any change initiative, it empowers the person that is made accountable. The organisation expects them to make decisions and knows, because of the process it has established, that the correct organisational role has been made accountable. Thus, the need for slow, consensus decision making is avoided.