in an effort make thousands of decisions, and one person making one mistake that goes undetected and uncorrected can cause unacceptable outcomes, such as loss of human life or enormous financial losses.
The primary responsibility for preventing such outcomes rests with the team executing the program. However, management often assigns functional organizations to provide oversight as a secondary line of defense against unacceptable outcomes. Functional managers also have ultimate responsibility as points of contact for anyone within their agencies with concerns about functional matters—in principle, anyone with a financial concern can bring that concern to the attention of the chief financial officer, anyone with a legal concern can bring that concern to the attention of the general counsel, and so on.
Internal functional organizations such as “Engineering,” “Quality Assurance,” and “Mission Success” assign people to the project team who report both up the reporting chain of the project line management and to the relevant functional manager, e.g., the VP of Engineering or the VP for Quality. Sometimes this approach is referred to as “two to hire, one to fire.” To assign someone to a project, both the project manager and the functional manager must agree on the selection. Either can remove the individual if reporting accountabilities are not met.
These individuals with two reporting lines have dual accountabilities. First, they are accountable for supporting the project team in achieving cost/schedule and financial objectives, and also accountable in their functional reporting chain to ensure that programs do not take unacceptable risks in their functional areas. For example, those from Engineering ensure that the engineering is done properly, using the established processes and tools approved by the functional organization. They are expected to “blow the whistle” to their functional management line if questionable engineering or quality practices are used by the project team, and they also serve as points of contact if project staff come across problematic issues to which the line program management is not responsive.
The functional management line is responsible for ensuring that the people it deploys to projects are accountable and satisfy their responsibilities. In safety and reliability engineering, for example, most lapses result from people not doing what the organization is relying on them to do. The result can sometimes be a multibillion-dollar disaster in which someone on the project team made a mistake (e.g., a typing error in input data to a launch vehicle) that was not caught by the several layers of project people and functionally deployed people who were accountable for checking and correcting such mistakes and who each failed to be accountable and to satisfy their responsibilities.
Risks from unaddressed ELSI concerns may, or may not, be less consequential. The concept of holding functional people accountable is