We believe an integral part of honing your mastery of Scrum is exploring real world dialogue from the larger Scrum community. The following is an excerpt from an email discussion between a Scrum practitioner and our 3Back Senior Training Team.
The conversation below is one that many Scrum practitioners, both green and seasoned, experience regarding clarity of roles. In this case the questioning centers around responsibility (who does it) and accountability (who is held to account for it). As it is in many cases with Scrum, responsibility and accountability walk the fine line of agility, offering the delineation needed for transparency, combined with the adaptability needed for the real world.
The Dev Team is responsible for the design and architecture of the product. Is anyone accountable? Explain.
Design is a by-product of doing the work. All Team Members are individually accountable to each other for doing good work. The state of the design is evidence of good work or not, and is hence a retrospective issue. Architecture is a collection of decisions about how to do the work (my favorite definition, from Grady Booch). AFAIK, there is no role in Scrum for who is explicitly accountable for these decisions; if there were, it would be some sort of Technical Owner or something. As it stands, I guess the PO is accountable, as the PO is accountable for making decisions that maximize the value of the work, and the architecture is a collection of valuable decisions.
The Dev Team is responsible for the forecast. If the forecast is not met, is anyone accountable? Explain.
Since the forecast is only a forecast, and not a commitment, it’s not something to be accountable for meeting. It’s not clear who is accountable for explaining the forecast to management (why it was what it was, why it wasn’t met, etc). On the one hand, the PO is accountable for explaining the value of the product, and the forecast would seem to be mixed up in that. On the other hand, the SM is accountable for trying to make the Team better, so the SM could be held accountable for knowing what the Team is doing to improve its forecasting. And then there’s the whole visibility thing, which is seem by some as a PO accountability, and by others as a SM thing – and it’s certainly a Scrum thing. So, the question here is: “who is management holding accountable for explaining the forecast?”
The Dev Team implements backlog items at some rate, called velocity. They are responsible for working to keep velocity optimized. Is someone accountable for velocity? Explain.
The SM is accountable for knowing what the Team is doing to make the Team better. Therefore, the SM needs to be able to explain why the Velocity is what it is, and what the Team is doing to improve or maintain it.
On the one hand, since those things need to be handled, it seems that both responsibility and accountability need to be assigned. On the other hand, there’s no individual in Scrum who is really competent to do those thing by themselves, and accountability for some of them seems almost like a bad idea.
This is why accountability is about being able to explain what is going on (being held to an accounting to <somebody>).
– The PO needs to be able to explain (to management) the decisions about why the product is what it is and why the Team is doing the work it is doing, it’s a two-parter, the PO is accountable for both the value of the Product and the value of the Work being done;
– the Team Members need to be able to explain (to each other) their design decisions and so on, this is largely captured in the Openness Value; and
– the SM needs to be able to explain (to management) what impediments the Team is running into, and what the Team is doing about them.
Now, these accountabilities are pretty simple, and there is lots of gray area between the SM’s and PO’s accountabilities. So, the bottom line is to know who is being held accountable for what – who needs to be able to explain to management the things that need explaining.
For a further explanation of accountability in Scrum Teams please see the Scrum Team Accountability infographic.
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And, as always, stay agile.