Blog:Ownership and Responsibility

Ed Toner, CIO

My rule for the OCIO is that if a request does not come in as part of our ITSM offering as an Incident Request, Service Request, Change Request, Problem Request or via our Project Management tool as a Project Task, it did not happen. This provides an audit trail and forces us to take ownership and responsibility.

Of course, some requests still come in via email and we politely request the appropriate ticket be created or we create it ourselves.

Ownership and Responsibility are interchangeable in my opinion. Ownership is an understanding that taking action is your responsibility, not someone else’s. Ownership means you're taking responsibility for an issue and placing value in the quality of your work. If you can't resolve an issue, you don't just electronically toss the responsibility to somebody else via email or the electronic ticketing system. Instead, track down the person who can fix it and make sure they address the issue. How often have you sent an email, service request, or incident request and thought, ”I’m Done? I sent them an email last week”. You simply electronically relinquished responsibility without follow-up. Have you asked for an acknowledgement or agreement that they have now taken ownership?

Taking ownership of a project, a technical issue, or a task doesn’t automatically mean that you’re responsible for its success. It means you have taken the responsibility for following through until an agreed upon and approved outcome is achieved. You should, however, feel a responsibility for the outcome. You may lack the resources or technical knowledge necessary to complete a task, or what you need may exist in somewhere else inside or outside the organization. In these cases, taking ownership means bringing the task forward to the appropriate individual or organization that can resolve the issue and continuing to follow up to ensure the task has been completed, instead of using the situation to justify inaction.

Ed Toner, CIO

We are all still accountable by inclusion. It’s an understanding that taking action is your responsibility, not someone else’s for the successful delivery of the entire task, even when others have a role to play. Ownership is an assurance that the task will be completed. Many may say, “Isn’t that the role of a manager or a project manager?” In some cases, that may be true, but an individual contributor that takes ownership of a task shows initiative and responsibility. These are indicators to management that you might be ready for a promotion to the next level. Managers should create a culture of ownership, independence, and increased empowerment throughout their organization.

So what is the difference between ownership (being responsible) and being accountable? Over the past 8 years, the OCIO has completed dozens of RACI charts that clarify responsibilities of individuals or groups. This process improvement tool charts roles and responsibilities to increase collaboration and teamwork. RACI is an acronym for Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, and Informed.

  • Responsible     Who is responsible for doing the actual work (Ownership)
  • Accountable     Who is accountable for the success of the task
  • Consulted         Who needs to be consulted for details
  • Informed           Who needs to be kept informed

Accountability and responsibility starts with leaders. Leaders must put trust in their team members to build a culture of ownership throughout an organization. Individuals that take ownership for the quality of their work see the business as their own.

Taking responsibility for helping solve problems you may not consider your own — that’s an essential principle for any great organization.

As always, I appreciate your efforts to provide quality services to the State and the Citizens of Nebraska!

Ed Toner