Jamie Dobson

Jamie Dobson

Jamie Dobson is co-founder and chief executive officer at Container Solutions.

Accountability - Whatever

February 26, 2015 by Jamie Dobson

It may seem like heresy to some, but at Container Solutions we are not that fond of accountability or transparency.

Transparency is what people demand when they don’t trust you. In a way a request for transparency is useful, as it tells something about the state of the relationship you have with the other person. It can at least start a conversation. But I trust Pini, for example, so much, that I just wait for him to give me updates - I can’t interrupt him mid idea, that would be suicide for this company. And if he needs to reflect for a week or two, then so be it.

Then there’s accountability. If you ask people to take risks, to go for it, essentially to innovate, you can’t roast their feet if they don’t deliver. In fact, those who always deliver are probably not aiming that high, which is a far greater problem if you want to innovate. And this is the problem with the agile software methods, especially as they are widely practiced: because they focus on accountability, and because failure is not really allowed, people don’t aim high enough. And so the agile cycles simply become a conveyor belt of mediocrity.

Ben Horowitz says this:

In the technology business, you rarely know everything up front. The difference between being mediocre and magical is often the difference between letting people take creative risk and holding them too tightly accountable. Accountability is important, but it’s not the only thing that’s important.

The one thing we do hold people to account for at CS is their behaviour. We hold each other to account in ways other companies don't, which is to say we value things that others don't and vice versa. This doesn't make us better, only different. We don't value transparency and accountability - both or which are tools of coercion/control - because we do value innovation. The three are basically incompatible.

We choose to innovate because it suits us. Our friends in finance choose control because it suits them. It just doesn't suit them when they need to create awesome software products. Our friends over at Crane are trying to resolve that tension. And in fact it's a tension we all wrestle with, even those of us who work at quite innovative companies.

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