Is Agile Accountability an Oxymoron?

by Dwight Kingdon

Despite what some people may think, accountability and Agile are not mutually exclusive.

How does your organization incorporate accountability? Is it part of your organization’s value statement or part of your enterprise culture? Most companies and leaders I’ve worked with (Agile or otherwise) are not very good with accountability. Most are either too lenient (they rarely hold people responsible for their actions or inactions) or they are too micro-managing (they manage their team so closely that people are never given a chance to demonstrate ownership).

In its simplest form, accountability means that if I say I’ll do something, I do it. It is about accepting responsibility. Agile teams are not immune to accountability — to doing what they say they’ll do. A mature Agile mindset regularly demonstrates the characteristic of being accountable. Accountability is part of a healthy Agile culture. It is an individual responsibility, a team responsibility, and an enterprise responsibility. At the enterprise level, leadership must work at creating a culture of accountability and demonstrate that they expect people to hold themselves responsible, and will be intolerant of behavior, systems, and structures that don’t match those company values.

Individuals and Agile teams must also demonstrate accountability. So, what does that look like on Agile teams?

These are just a few ways Agile teams can demonstrate accountability. If accountability is a challenge where you are, begin with you as an individual. Behaviors are often contagious. When your fellow team members see you acting with a high degree of accountability, peer pressure kicks in and others will follow your example. When enough team members regularly demonstrate high levels of accountability, other teams will take notice and hopefully mimic this good behavior. Culture changes, such as accountability, don’t happen overnight. But culture change has to start somewhere. Why not start with yourself?

This is an Agile Alliance community blog post. Opinions represented are personal and belong solely to the author. They do not represent opinion or policy of Agile Alliance.

Originally published at on November 13, 2019.

Agile Alliance is a nonprofit global member organization, supporting and serving the Agile community since 2001.

Agile Alliance is a nonprofit global member organization, supporting and serving the Agile community since 2001.