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Accountability in Scrum

8 April 2014

Tommi Johnstone
3Back, Scrum Management Consulting & Training

Dan Rawsthorne, PhD, PMP
3Back, Scrum Management Consulting & Training

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.

For more about accountability in Scrum, visit the 3Back blog at or email us at

Opinions represent those of the author and not of Scrum Alliance. The sharing of member-contributed content on this site does not imply endorsement of specific Scrum methods or practices beyond those taught by Scrum Alliance Certified Trainers and Coaches.

Article Rating

Current rating: 5 (6 ratings)


Zach Bonaker, CSP,CSM,CSPO, 4/9/2014 11:53:28 AM
Love the graphic. Thanks for contributing!
Tommi Johnstone, CSP,CSM,CSPO,REP, 4/11/2014 10:39:40 AM
Thanks Zach! :)
Jem Djelal, CSP,CSM,CSPO, 4/15/2014 2:27:20 PM
Brilliant blurb, we need more of these distinctions in our community.
Albert Arul Prakash Rajendran, CSM,CSPO, 4/16/2014 3:37:22 AM
Do we have a high resolution image of this. This will help us to blow it up big and post it in our organizations.

Thanks Tommi and Dan
Julie Hendry, CSP,CSM, 4/16/2014 10:45:09 AM
Great...but who is accountable for products that span multiple teams?
William Oleksy, CSM,CSD, 6/6/2014 5:17:43 PM
Great info-graphic and I'm glad to read an article on accountability, identifying it as being responsible for making sure things get done is great. There was one thing though that made me uncomfortable when reading this, the idea that the Scrum Master is accountable to management for their decisions, the visibility I completely understand but the decision I was not clear about. On all teams I have worked on and coached decisions are made by the team, not the SM, and so the team is accountable for decisions, I feel making the SM accountable for decisions places them back into a management or PM role rather than that of a servant leader supporting the team. I actually coach my Scrum Masters to try not to make decisions for the team but rather encourage the conversation and help them find the right decision. Maybe I am misinterpreting, and I would love to hear back about this topic.

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