This topic covers several important issues relating to how people help each other achieve their goals, missions and ultimately their purpose.

The Myth of Task Commitment

When doing any of the things described below, it is common for people to run afoul of confusion between physical tasks and higher purpose, and how to reconcile commitments to each of those things. For more, read the topic on priorities.

Conflating Responsibility and Ownership

Accountability involves clearly identifying who is responsible. When addressing a specific individual, it is very important to identify whether the individual has been given ownership in fact, as well as by agreement. If ownership does not exist in fact (as, for example, then the group interferes with the authority ostensibly given to the owner) there is likely to be a mismatch between expectation and commitment.

Individual Accountability

Holding each other accountable is a catch-phrase used for a certain type of personal support. It occurs between two people. They treat each other as equals in the support relationship. "Holding each other accountable" involves the same type of support in both directions, for example, Adam holds Ben accountatble for Ben's commitments, and Ben holds Adam accountable for his.


Holding Teams Accountable

Request For Comments: I feel this section might leave a bit to be desired — Comments welcome.

Everyone on a team is entrusted with, and responsible for ensuring, the team's success. In order to carry this out, each team member has the right to hold the team accountable.


Larger Groups

Accountability can also be held within larger group structures. It works somewhat like the team method (previous section) with one important modification: When a shortfall is seen, the one noticing the shortfall should bring it up gradually. The reason for this is to respect the implied rank of larger groups of people.


This process serves as an example of compliance to the "enfranchise each level" principles discussed in MCV14.

Other Important Issues

The Absence of Blame

"Holding a group accountable" is not the same as "blaming every individual in the group", or even "blaming ceertain individuals in the group". However, if other individuals in the group take things personally, it might be perceived that way. Therefore, when performing the task of "raising the issue", one must be vigilant to speak personally — describe what one sees as having been missing, and describe the perceived negative implications of this, and then encourage responses and/or evidence to the contrary.

The Role of Expectation

Here I don't refer to an "expectation" that someone will do something (as defined here) but rather to the "expectation" that a group will live up to its stated ideals or core values.

An individual member's expectation of a certain quality or attribute often leads to that individual initiating a process of accountability like those described above. This contradicts the common wisdom that if you don't get what you expect, you should change your expectations. Because the group is committed to living up to its ideals, you are empowered to act on your unfulfilled expectations by influencing others. In an egalitarian organization with ownership of the ideal, every member of the organization is empowered, and charged with the responsibility, to perform the functions described above. This is the primary mechanism by which a highly-regarded written document (such as a constitution) manifests its power.

See also

The Tech Lead Coat of Arms.


Priority vs. Commitment issues: Landmark Education 19970904; -bb- core team 20060624; several other instances in between.

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