Jerry, you posted some great questions on 20 October! They really did get me thinking.
Here are my thoughts regarding #1 -What if there were no project managers, and instead teams had to figure out how to achieve the objectives and please the customer? What impact would that have on accountability?
Unfortunately some of us have experienced an "effort" without a project manager. We all probably have at least at the mini-level. How many meetings have you been to where people walk in and say "OK, whose meeting is this?" Meaning, who is the ringleader of this circus?
So what happens if there is no one playing the PM role? Someone emerges as the "lead" anyway. Why is this? Because the person in the group with leadership skills just can't stand the chaos. If more than one person is vying for the leadership role, there can be even bigger problems. If no one is interested in stepping into the leadership void, you can be sure that truly collaborative decisions amongst a group, even a small one, can be really hard and take a very long time. This tends to lead to frustration by the team's or the "customer" who is anxiously awaiting their problem to be solved or both.
However, the accountability factor is a good point. This is why the best project managers do try to involve their teams as much as possible in determining how to achieve the objectives, make sure the right stakeholders sign-off on the decisions and get on with it...
Also I just want to mention that I have seen many organizations focused on "pleasing" the customer. This is great in theory but can manifest itself in undesirable ways. Sometimes what the customer needs vs. what they want is very different. A person experienced in the art and science of uncovering the true needs and objectives is necessary. A reasonable business person will appreciate this in the end. Their problem is solved even if it wasn't in the way that they had thought it might be at first. I should tell you my infamous Ferrari story...
In the meantime, thanks Jerry, for the reminder about what Henry Ford said, "If I asked my customers what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse." He also said something like, "You can have any color you want, as long as it's black." I know that we both agree that there is a lesson in focus and simplicity here as well. Particularly during the first roll-out! Project Managers are the right people to make sure their teams are truly solving the problem and tenaciously focused on accomplishing the agreed-upon scope.
In conclusion, I think the idea of leaving it up to the team and the customers to come up with the right answer on time, on budget, on scope with high quality and stakeholder satisfaction…like gambling on a horse with a bum leg when you could be betting on the Ferrari instead.