Moving from Authority to Responsibility

Lean Thinking, which underlies Agile methods like Scrum and XP, has as one of its central pillars “respect for people”. Agile reflects this in terms of ‘whole team’ accountability, collaboration and self-organisation. All these factors lead to agile seeing team members from a more ‘humanistic’ point of view – they are more than just resources that can be swapped in and out of projects – the sort of ‘bean-counting’  mindset giving rise to the ‘mythical man-month’.  Agile takes teams and individuals much more seriously, calling for long-life, cross-functional teams that are allowed the time, latitude and autonomy to gel into a high-performing whole. This change is well summed up by the phrase ‘Move from Authority to Responsibility’. Where organisational structure is based on individual authority rather than joint responsibility, it leads to fragmentation, isolation of roles, hand-offs, friction and ultimately poor organisational performance.

Its great to have really simple and memorable phrases to guide our day to day decisions and I think this is one of those: Build Responsibility, not Authority.

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