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January 6, 2014 / KaTe

Scrum Master’s toolkit: Christopher Avery’s Responsibility Model

Hello Again!

Happy new year! Hope you’re all full of good food, nice feelings and excitement to come back to what you do best 🙂

Today I will give you a simple tool – a poster that you can give to your teams, that can really help.

Few years ago, on a conference I met a great guy – his name was Chris Avery. He mainly works with leaders and high-level management. He introduced me to his Responsibility Process, which I really like. It’s based on a model that you can use in your daily work. And if you’d like to know more visit his website.

So what is this all about? Simply: about responsibility. In English, there are two words very close to each other, but with a major distinction. I noticed that not only in Polish, but also in many other languages Responsibility and Accountability are the same word. So please, check in your language if this isn’t the case. And if is, stress the difference on every occasion!

So why a model or a process? Can’t a person just be responsible? It’s a little more complex than that. Children learn responsibility as they grow up and experience more. As adults we can also go through this process every time something happens.  So let me explain how it works with an example – I lost my keys.

Quit – you can always quit and just not solve the problem. In the case of losing keys, I would call my boyfriend and say I’m stating with him tonight.


“No, no no! I couldn’t have lost those keys!” – I rummage through my purse again and again with hope of finding it. Denial is basically a refusal to admit something happened. Kids would go with “It’s not broken” when confronted with a broken vase.

Lay Blame

“This stupid cashier! She was so abrasive, I must have lost those keys because of her!” – this level usually involves some anger. With kids “He/She did it!” is very popular. Basically you blame someone else.


“It was raining, it was dark, all the stuff was heavy, because all of this I lost those keys” – I am trying to justify that there was no other way, I must have lost those keys. With kids it would be “It happened itself!”. We are trying to lay blame on all natural or supernatural powers we can imagine. But still we don’t admit it may be us.


“I’m so stupid, I lost those keys again …” – I am blaming myself.  Nothing good comes out of it, I just bring some bad mood on myself. Kids who admit they did something bad, are usually taught to feel ashamed “Shame on you!”. It’s a step forward, at least we admit there is some of our fault. But still, nothing gets fixed.


Also known as “Accountability”. “Man, I lost those keys, so I HAVE TO call that witch, landlord again… and I’m so bad on the phone”. If you feel you have to do something, but for some reason you don’t really feel like it, that’s obligation. Obligation towards your boss or yourself. Kids usually go with “My mom/dad told me to”. You fix the problem, but out of necessity, not because you want to.


This is the highest level. You don’t look at whose fault that is. You don’t blame yourself. It happened – sh*t happens. “[phone rings] Honey, can I come by your place to pick up my spare keys? I just lost mine. – Thanks, bye!” – something happened? Just go and fix it. That’s responsibility. Doesn’t matter if there were 0,00003% of your fault. Just do it. With intrinsic motivation, not being coerced.


Every person has a certain level of responsibility in specific areas of life. For example – your love life, you can be on the Shame level. You blame yourself for everything that happens. Or you can be on Lay Blame at work – “It’s their fault” or “That’s not my job, it’s theirs”. Usually with your kids, you’re always Responsible. You can also change the level you’re on. Up or down.

Most important thing about this model is that you can’t impose it on anyone.  It has to be their decision. When using it as a team, you can post a poster on the wall and whenever someone says “It’s not my job” you can ask – what level was this comment on? Works like a charm  🙂


Good hunting!



Leave a Comment
  1. Allison Pollard / Jan 9 2014 5:54 am

    We’ve been introducing the Responsibility Model to our Scrum Masters and Product Owners after asking what issues they’ve been having with their teams/projects. The blame language is loud and clear, and the model helps show what other options they can choose to respond with. It’s a cultural change in the organization, and having this common model to refer to is making it easier for folks to understand where we’d rather be!

  2. Santo Soetarmin / Jul 15 2015 8:40 am

    Thanks Kate for sharing this wonderful information, I just share this to my team :).

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