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Accountable Teams

7 November 2017

Shane Billings

If a team is to be empowered correctly, it must also be accountable. Otherwise, the empowerment is impotent and ineffective. Empowerment implies trusting that the work will be done. It also implies that the group is deserving of that trust. But how do we recognize the signs of a team that has taken ownership and become accountable? How do we know they are worthy of trust? Here are some simple signs.

Accountable teams accept data without spin or manipulation. True data shows both the good and the bad. Accountable teams use data to make reality-based decisions rather than manipulating the data to embolden a decision they want. The team is more interested in making a good decision than the way the data makes them look. Consequently, they own the data and the consequences that come from subsequent decisions.

Accountable teams increase influence. Not everything is within a team’s control. There are just too many forces at work to allow one team to take control and run everything. Rather than merely accepting their fate, teams that are accountable understand this fact and work within this reality to increase their influence.

Accountable teams do not tear down teammates. This is not to say that they don’t consider the root cause of issues to be people if necessary, but it is to say that they don’t waste time denigrating the source of the fault. Instead, their focus is on problem solving and improving. There just isn’t enough time for being negative.

Accountable teams make the hard choices. Ultimately, accountable teams hold the responsibility for success or failure. To achieve success, they will make difficult choices that other teams may be unwilling to make. They may choose to remove a team member. They may refuse to be distracted by external forces so that they can focus on what they feel is most important. For such a team, politics is a secondary consideration, whereas achievement is the primary goal.

Accountable teams strive for improvement. For an accountable team, improvement is a matter of course. No other source for improvement is as effective, or even possible for that matter. This realization drives the team to look inward and drive upward.

Teams that are accountable are of immense worth in any organization. They are able to accomplish things that other less accountable teams cannot. Finding and helping evolve these teams is an effort that will repay itself many times over.

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.

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