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Accountability in Scrum

04/08/2014 by Dan Rawsthorne, PhD, PMP,Tommi Johnstone

Accountability is a very important concept in Scrum. Most people don't really understand what it is. In fact, there isn't even a word for it in many languages. Unlike responsibility, which is doing the work, accountability is making sure the work gets done (or being able to explain why it didn't get done). For instance, the ScrumMaster is accountable for resolving impediments. However, this does not necessarily mean she resolves all impediments herself. She will frequently need to coordinate with another individual or group, such as IT or Purchasing, who will do the heavy lifting and be responsible for the action that eventually resolves the impediment.

The following infographic is designed to help clarify for what and to whom the different members of a Scrum team are accountable.


As is illustrated above, the product owner is accountable for maximizing the value of the team's work as well as the value of the product they are working on. Both the product owner and the ScrumMaster are accountable to management for their decisions (or lack thereof) and for enhancing the visibility of work, impediments, and other items. In addition to resolving impediments, the ScrumMaster is accountable for raising or maintaining the team's velocity.

The team members are all accountable to each other to produce good work. This accountability often manifests as an unwritten team agreement, giving team members permission to challenge each other if they think a colleague is not working to the best of their ability. This accountability is key for any successfully self-organizing team.

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