Responsibility the Agile way

I am a teacher of Agile methodologies which means that I teach collective responsibility. I often get the response that ”everybody’s responsibility is no one’s responsibility”. To make everyone really take responsibility we need to define what we mean with responsibility the Agile way. Here is at least my version:

We are all responsible for contributing with our intelligence and senses for the best of the product and the process. We are also responsible doing what we have said we will do and being transparent with our progress.

If you think that is too fluffy, here comes more details about what I think Agile responsibility means:

We are all responsible for:
1) Searching for problems and possibilities in both the product we build and in the way we are working.

2) Seeking for the information we need.

3) Communicating problems, possibilities and new information we have found.

4) Participating in discussions and helping the discussion to come to a consensus decision to solve problems or realize improvements. We shall all contribute with our knowledge for the best of the team.

5) Acting according to decided improvements. This is why we should try to reach consensus. It’s easier to follow a decision you have agreed on.

6) Holding everybody else responsible to act according to the agreed rules.

Everybody can agree on these simple rules since there is no responsibility for the result. The basic idea is that good behaviour and focus on improvements will lead to good results. It’s possible to promise behaviour but hard to promise a result since results usually depend on several variables and not just one individual. That’s when responsibility becomes blame and “no one’s responsibility”.

To help people take responsibility according to the steps above we need a good environment for improvements. This includes:

a) A channel to communicate what we find. This could be retrospective, some internal community or through the Scrum Master or the line manager.

b) A good response. “Don’t come to me with problems, solve it yourself” is not always a good answer.
Good luck taking responsibility

7 responses on “Responsibility the Agile way

  1. Very nice post explaining how an agile team can achieve collective responsibility. The problem is how to change the mentality of developers. This assumes that they have strong social skills but we all know that developers are not the most social beings in such teams 🙂

  2. Maybe developers lack social skills because they are treated as unsocial persons. If we invite them to meet the customers and also include the in discussions about how to best bring value to the customers, maybe then the social skill would improve.

  3. I do agree with all of the ideas you’ve presented on your post. They are very convincing and can definitely work. Nonetheless, the posts are very quick for beginners. Could you please prolong them a bit from subsequent time? Thanks for the post.

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