Ownership. Take it…

… and own the consequences.

There has been a lot of talk about GIVING ownership. Management should let teams take ownership. Product Owners (with or without budget) should be able to make their own decisions. Let teams take controle over what and how to do things. Teams can organise themselves. The teams can fail, if they fail fast and learn, no problem. Dear management, please give ownership and controle to the teams.

These kind of things.

There’s not that much around about TAKING ownership. 

What I see is that teams and Product Owners struggle with taking ownership. Teams do not really take ownership of their way of working and PO’s do not really take ownership of the product or service they’ve been given. As targets are not reached, management takes over again, Bye, bye ownership.

Let’s make things clear first. Ownership involves at least three things. Without them, you don’t own anything.

  • Means: budget, resources, tools, etc.
  • Authority: the mandate to actually take decisions, but also the recognition by the team(s) and management that you can
  • Necessity: an intrinsic or extrinsic need to solve the problems/reach the goals. Sometimes “it’s the job you choose” can be enough.

This M.A.N. comes with responsibilities and consequences and that’s where a lot of teams and PO’s fail. Management doesn’t really give it, but more importantly, teams and PO’s don’t really take it.

If you have been given the M.A.N. by management you are now responsible for the decisions (and their consequences) you make. Please realise that (to give a few examples):

  • You are also responsible for NOT making decisions and the consequence of NOT acting
  • You are responsible if you don’t know what to do or how to do things and therefore responsible for asking help
  • You are responsible for making the consequences of your decisions clear to everyone. In complex situations that also means the consequence of not knowing the outcome
  • As a team, you are responsible for your way of working, but also for regularly evaluations and changing things if it doesn’t work
  • If the route from A to B is unclear, choose a path, make the consequences of that path clear including what happens if it’s the wrong path, and then GO!
  • If you face a problem and you don’t know who the owner is, you are until you get it clear

Management: if you give ownership, make sure you actually hand the M.A.N. over. PO’s and teams: if you get ownership, make sure the M.A.N. is really given and then take it!

What do you see around you? How is ownership handed over? Does management let go? Do teams actually take it over? Let me know.