Team Accountability Walk
If I ask you, “For which team you are accountable for?” what will be your answer? Think for a minute. Imagine the team in your mind. You should write it down to refer to it later.
Would your answer contain: list and complete commitments, to break down work efficiently, or to make a great design? Would it go to generate revenue or an effective marketing campaign? How about “the teams that are working hard”?
Definition – Mine, not by the book
Accountable – adj. – A need to describe to an asking authority the activities or decisions made
And in addition,
Responsible – adj. – The state of mind or being that owns the duty of taking care of something or someone
Definitely, there is a relationship to responsibility baked into accountability. The tones of that relationship are argued over; I am not concerned in that argument.
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Finding Out What Went Wrong
I like the manner Chris Avery explains his responsibility process. This is a very unique process and a great path to know your decision-making as to how to move ahead toward taking responsibility.
If you can transfer yourself to a responsible state, then you can confidently bout up your accountability and responsibility.
I had a personal moment currently when I was running a responsibility practice with a team that I thought was in a shared denial state, which is common. Here is what it looked like:
I gave a set of teams an epic that they failed to deliver and asked them to fill in the following sentence on their own and do not show anyone. I also said to them that we would split up the sheets at the end, and they would not have to share the data.
“The epic failed because of _____”
I gave them the following choices to fill in the blank.
- The Business
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What Accountability Looks Like on the Best Teams (and Vice Versa)
I did not survey the audience, yet I created the following point:
If you are seeing at your answers and you see “He, She, It, You, They, or The Business,” then you are in a reliant on state and not accepting responsibility. You have transferred control to someone else to make sure that you can have a successful result. Not a good place because you don’t have control of your result due to your state of mind.
If you answered “Me,” then you are at a state of being responsible for your actions. In this scenario, you have to get the job done and correct the issue.
Later I went through the classic 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and the idea of dependent, independent, and relationships resonated the same tone that I was trying to collect. For more information on that, just read the book. My challenge to the group was similar to the book’s challenge. If you find yourself dependent, try to move to independent (me), and then consciously try to move to independent (us). To do this, you’ll require an inside-out approach.
First, you take responsibility and become accountable for yourself to yourself. Then you deliberately move the team toward a shared responsibility that matches the accountability of the team. You will get that everything doesn’t require to be a shared responsibility, but that is the target at the macro or team level. Else, you are little more than the sum of your parts.
You may indeed find your team impaired by a lack of organizational enablement. Organizational enablement, to me, implies that teams may not be formed in a way that they can control their destiny.
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In scrum, for an individual team, this looks like the team. They might be getting dragged onto various teams, have dependencies, etc. In a scaled environment, that includes program and portfolio teams as well. For example, the program team might not have the architectural competence to support fast release cycles.
Many times I have seen that blame has been strapped down to the personal level and the organization cannot take responsibility. If this is the scenario, both managers and leaders in the dependent state can form learned helplessness where they cannot move no matter the inducement because they are not taught to do so.
When agile comes in, trainers bring the therapy express with us. But before we bring the couch, we need to bring the proper structure and governance to enable the helpless and promote a responsible environment. Ultimately, we have always had accountability. Someone always answers to someone else. A transparent line of sight of the accountability associated with responsibility is a win/win situation for all.
I’ll talk more about what that win/win looks like in the future as we discuss what the pull of accountability and the response of responsibility looks like at the team and scaled team levels.