Accountability Vs Responsibility

Sometime back my manager frequently used to say, “Saurabh this feature is your responsibility“. But lately I have started hearing, “you should take ownership for this feature and you will be accountable for its delivery”.

So, what’s the __ difference I thought to myself. Here is what I think it means. You are free to let me know, what you feel.

In English its not much better, if you check on line, quite often, the definitions are interchangeable.

Responsible means that you are involved, possibly performing a clearly defined task, and your performance could determine a successful outcome.

Accountable means that its up to you to ensure that there will be a successful outcome. Even though you might not actually be performing any of the tasks involved.

Let me explain with an example.

In football/soccer players are responsible, for the passing, tackling, attacking, defending and scoring of the goals that will determine who wins the game.

The manager is accountable for result. If the team loses he is the one who will need to explain why to his bosses, and will possibly suffer the consequences after a string of poor results.

Many people say that’s its unfair, as the manager doesn’t kick a single ball.

However, it is the manager who selected the players, trained the players, decided the tactics, provided the motivation and game plan, was able to make the changes to players and tactics as the match unfolds.

We can delegate responsibility for tasks, but we cannot or should not delegate accountability.