Agile 2006 – Demonstrating Responsibility: the Mindset of an Agile Leader – Christopher Avery

Monday 13:30-15:00


Responsibility is a skill that can be self-taught by becoming aware of the responsibility process, and refusing to operate from any of the stages below taking responsibility ourselves.


Being accountable is not the same as being responsible. Accountability, or being held to account, is external – determined through a management hierarchy. Responsibility is internal, having the ability to respond, a sense of ownership of the issue.

We know what responsibility means – so how is it that so many responsible people do highly irresponsible things? Many experts and books say we should take 100% responsibility – but few explain how.

People are more able than they realize to solve problems simply by responding to them in a different way. Responsibility is not a character trait – it’s a skill, which can be taught directly. The responsibility process goes through six stages or steps.

No personal learning occurs at the bottom levels of the responsibility process, until we start taking responsibility. The key is to become aware of the responsibility process, to develop an awareness of how we are reacting to problems, and refuse to operate from any of the lower stages.

It is a challenge to adopt – subconsciously we will resist it, and it can result in exposure that is humbling and politically unsafe. It doesn’t work as a management tool – it can only be self applied, and as a leadership tool, should be suggested after the problem – not during.

Key points

  • Become aware of where I am in the responsibility process and “refuse to operate from any of the lower stages”.
  • Can be used as a tool for a Scrum team to learn to become self-managed and take responsibility.

Recommended further reading

The Declaration of Interdependence – Six Principles to Benefit You and Your Agile Organization – Alistair Cockburn, Better Software Magazine, June 2006

The powerpoint contains further notes and explanations.

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