The companion to empowerment is accountability.

Product teams are given the space and time to come up with the solutions to the problems they are assigned, but with that empowerment comes responsibility and accountability.

So we need to discuss what happens when a team fails to deliver on one or more of their team objectives?

The first thing to keep in mind is that accountability is directly related to ambition.  If the team was asked to be very ambitious (e.g. a “Moon Shot”) and the attempts failed to generate the desired results, then that is largely expected.

However, if the team was asked to be conservative (a “Roof Shot”), or even more importantly, if they were asked to make a high-integrity commitment, and they failed to deliver in this situation, then this is where accountability comes to play.

Each product team, as well as the organization as a whole, needs to continue to grow and improve.  These cases can provide excellent learning opportunities.

If a team fails substantially on their team objectives, then I encourage the team to treat this similar to how we treat an outage.  

Get the product team together with a set of their peers, especially peers from any product teams that were impacted by their failure, and have the team discuss what they believe was the root cause of their failure, and what they believe they could have, and should have, done differently.

Perhaps if they had shared with management at the first signs of a problem they could have had help?  Or perhaps the product team that was depending on them could have made other arrangements, or even helped themselves?

These “team objective post-mortems” are not fun for the team, but they are typically very constructive and helpful.  Is there some embarrassment at admitting your failures to your peers? Usually. But that’s also one more reason to take your commitments seriously and manage your progress closely.

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