Skip to main content

Responsibility in one person vs. in a team

Last post 03:53 pm February 11, 2016 by Andrzej Zińczuk
9 replies
12:11 pm August 24, 2015

I have an advanced question for you.

The Product Owner is a person, not a committee. He is responsible for the value of the product.
The Development Team is responsible for delivering a done increment.

This means: For the value of the product, there is only one person responsible. For delivering a done increment, there are several persons who are collectively responsible.

Now my question is: Why has this proven to be a good idea?

Why is it beneficial to concentrate the responsibility for the product value on one person while spreading the responsibility for delivering a done increment on several persons?

02:03 pm August 24, 2015

Think of it in terms of risk mitigation and the avoidance of waste. You can have many crew members on a ship, all of whom add value, yet it is safest and most efficient if only one sets the course.

10:29 pm August 24, 2015

Great topic!!

I will discuss the topic based on 2 facets.

At first, spreading the responsibility for delivering a done increment on several persons is an internal point of view.

There is also one person is responsible for a done increment, the Product Owner.

The DT is responsible for the “OUTPUT” of the increment.
The PO is responsible for the “OUTCOME” of the increment.

Secondly, this is a course about problem-domain vs. solution-domain.

The PO is responsible for problem-domain, focus on WHAT-TO-DO rather than HOW to do.

For problem-domain, building the right thing, involving risks, value, TCO, ROI, it needs a quickly definitely final decision which is beneficial to concentrate the responsibility on one person.

The DT is responsible for solution-domain, focus on HOW-TO-DO more than WHAT-TO-DO.

For solution-domain, building the thing right, needing skills to tackle different requirements, tasks, techniques, it needs deep collaboration of a cross-functional, self-organizing team.
It is beneficial to spreading the responsibility people to improve the collaboration and buy in.

06:51 am August 25, 2015

Thank you for your answers.
I like the picture of a ship which shows that this concept is thousands of years old.
The Product Owner is responsible for the course, the Development Team for the velocity.

07:51 am August 25, 2015

The Product Owner is responsible for the course, the Development Team for the velocity.

It sound like a leadership concept and is suitable for any type of teams, organizations.
What do you think about as follows?
The team leader is responsible for the course, the team member for the velocity.
The CEO is responsible for the course, the staff for the velocity.

In my opinion, for a Scrum Team, the PO decides a clear and unambiguous destination and has the DT understanding it.
The DT is response for choose the best course to arrive at the destination using optimal velocity.

11:32 am August 25, 2015

I'd say that the Development Team is responsible for the journey (to the destination) rather than the velocity

A Kanban team might reasonably be held accountable in terms of its velocity, but the responsibilities of a Scrum Development Team are of greater substance. They must maximize the value given to the Product Owner throughout the journey. Making good headway (velocity) is just one aspect of this.

11:37 am August 25, 2015


So I use the TERM: optimal velocity rather than maximum velocity.

04:04 am August 26, 2015

Really great answer!
I would like to add some value. Perhaps we have the Development team with one responsible person - manager. It means that process within the team will build on command-and-control management. And so the team member will don't feel the own responsibility for the work of the team. We will have reduced of collaboration, because every team member does only work that manager said. Every team member will see the world only from manager window(from manager point of view). And like result we have an all work that depends on the one personnel - manager. In every moment we need a good manager available in other way we have a trouble.

03:55 am August 27, 2015

Ian, I know what you mean with value and velocity. I chose the word velocity because it is applicable to both Development Teams and ships.
We are talking about the Santa Maria where you need a collaborating crew, and not about a roman trireme where you need a slave driver with a whip.
However, if you say the DT is responsible for the journey, this includes the course. So in your picture, the spanish king is PO. I like the picture of a PO actually being on the ship and holding the steering wheel, i.e. Christopher Columbus.

03:53 pm February 11, 2016

Really nice topic.

I agree with above - it's harder to decide on What then How. Shared vision is harder to sustain than choosing track to it.

By posting on our forums you are agreeing to our Terms of Use.

Please note that the first and last name from your member profile will be displayed next to any topic or comment you post on the forums. For privacy concerns, we cannot allow you to post email addresses. All user-submitted content on our Forums may be subject to deletion if it is found to be in violation of our Terms of Use. does not endorse user-submitted content or the content of links to any third-party websites.

Terms of Use may, at its discretion, remove any post that it deems unsuitable for these forums. Unsuitable post content includes, but is not limited to, Professional-level assessment questions and answers, profanity, insults, racism or sexually explicit content. Using our forum as a platform for the marketing and solicitation of products or services is also prohibited. Forum members who post content deemed unsuitable by may have their access revoked at any time, without warning. may, but is not obliged to, monitor submissions.