Authority and Responsibility are the same thing

September 20, 2018

Inspired by Ron Jeffries‘ “Manager Responsibilities” article, I responded…

I like that you gave the word “Responsibilities” such prominence. While in some ways I have been quite critical of “management” lately, I think that my issue lies more with the question of authority and responsibility.

I think that…

Authority and Responsibility are the same thing.

And that this is important.

I think that those who try to delegate or impose responsibility on others, while denying them the necessary authority to act are frauds.

And I have seen quite a few people over the years misusing agile concepts to do that. “This is SCRUM.” they say, “And you take full responsibility for your commitment to deliver all these things by the deadline (… regardless of anything I or others do to you). This is ‘your commitment(that I’m imposing on you).” And (sometimes) then, they actively sabotage your efforts and yet still insist on holding you “responsible” for “your commitment.” I find such behavior fraudulent. You give both or you take both. You can’t give one and keep back the other.

Further…
To clarify…

If you use your authority, then you are taking responsibility.

When you intervene and tell your people to stop doing this, and to do that instead… When you tell people to stop doing things the way they think is best, and do things your way instead… Then you have used your authority to override others. And by doing so, you have taken responsibility for the results. No matter how much you might try to deny it. No matter how much you might try to appeal to “their professionalism” or “their job title” as reasons why they should give up everything and possibly “do the impossible” to “deliver on their commitments,” you have used your authority in ways that affect the outcome, and so you are responsible for that.

When I am working as a leader or manger, I strive to keep that in mind: That it’s impossible to delegate responsibility without also delegating authority. And when I use my authority, I am taking responsibility.

I have found that that works well. And I wish that others would also keep that in mind, and do the same.

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