So, back in 2005, I was introduced to the importance of ownership in software development teams by Ashley Johnson who had just met and attended a presentation by Christopher Avery on The Responsibility Process. Over the next few years, I met Christopher, attended what I could of his presentations, and eventually started my own journey to learn about they human dynamics of high performance teams.
So, these days when I tell people I work with about Avery’s model and ownership, the number one question is “how do I get others to take ownership?”
In general, I don’t have one answer that is independent of context, but here is a list of techniques that I’ve found useful:
1) Always start with yourself. You need to take ownership for your actions, and the results you and your team are responsible for. (Yes, you read it correctly, responsibility for the results of your team, not just yourself.)
2) Respect the people you work with. We have bulls**t sensors, and we know when someone asks us to do something because they are looking down at us or see us as obstacles. In other words, we must see other people as people and equals, before we start talking about difficult issues like taking ownership. (See Anatomy of Peace and Mike Sahota’s write up.)
3) Explain ownership then ask for agreements to come from ownership. I shamelessly steal Avery’s model and relate it to software development and how a lack of ownership can bring a team’s productivity down significantly. At Gemba Systems, we thought it was important enough to put it as our first value in our code of conduct.
4) Make it safe. It is really difficult to take ownership when everything is going wrong. It is difficult for us to confront and admit our failures.
Hope this helps – amr