Rethinking Responsibilities

Can you get the best from your team to fulfill your responsibility?

Ben and I were discussing the Jony Ive biography, and a part that talked about learning design in the UK and how important collaboration was to the learning process.

It got me thinking about the notion of “responsibility” as it relates to a role that you play at work (or beyond). When you hear the phrase “roles and responsibilities” you probably think of careers and job sites. “You roles and responsibilities are….”

If you search around, you see some somewhat strange examples. For example, in Six Sigma land you see a lot of belts.

As I look back at my career so far, the people I have enjoyed working with the most understand the fact that there is a difference between the outcomes and how they happen (and their ego).

For example, if you are interviewing someone and they get across the fact that:

“I am a good designer because the products that my team built are well designed.”


“I am a good designer because I come up with amazing designs.”

They have the self confidence to understand that their value isn’t only in what they can do with their tools (e.g. Photoshop for a visual designer), but rather in getting the best ideas from the entire team, making the right trade offs, and coming up with the best possible solution.

The same can be said for every role on the project. The proof is in the pudding, not in the making. A great project manager isn’t great if the project doesn’t ship within the constraints that were set, even if they are solid individuals when it comes to knowing the craft of project management.

You can draw the same parallel for design, product, QA, and engineering.

It feels like the best teams are playing a team sport. (Just as football (soccer) up leveled when the Dutch brought the approach of total football to the game). To deliver world class quality, it isn’t enough to have a good manual test process, or automation tests, you need the entire team to be focused on quality. The engineers care about it and spend the time on it in their code. The product managers trade off for quality. It goes on and on.

What are your responsibilities, and are you using the qualities of the entire team to maximize the outcomes?

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