The Responsibility Process

It is a different thing to be held accountable than to take responsibility. When we take full responsibility for everything, it brings us freedom, power and choice. This is the core teaching in Christopher Avery’s book The Responsibility Process.

It was Katleena Kortesuo, a Finnish crisis communication expert, who once led me to the similar thought. She called it self-responsibility and I stole the term immediately and started using it in everyday life. I feel that self-responsibility is very close to what Avery describes while writing about ”the mental state of responsibility”.

Also the hostage negotiator Richard Mullender taught in his workshop that even though the thing might not be your fault, it is still your responsibility. So, there is something about this responsibility issue that is worth scrutinising more closely and the Avery’s process appears to be very useful.

The Responsibility Process piece by piece

Christopher Avery’s The Responsibility Process is a model which demonstrates the automatic processes that happen in us when we take or avoid responsibility. The model takes place every time we face a problem. And every time when there’s a crash between what we have and what we would like to have, the process of responsibility activates.

There are 5 + 2 phases on the model. The actual phases are lay blame, justify, shame, obligation and responsibility. In addition there are denial and quit. Denial takes place sometimes when we aren’t willing or yet able to admit that we have a problem. And quitting occurs when we hope that the problem will go away by itself. Mainly the path goes from lay blame to responsibility.

We climb up these five steps of the process automatically as soon as we get rid of the previous state. Passing each step becomes possible only when one has recognised standing on that particular step. And at any situation it is possible to rise to the step of responsibility.

Why do I want to reach responsibility?

Developer’s life is full of situations in which the responsibility process activates. A project is about to be late, there is a bug in the production, the salesperson has sold something that messes the original schedules up, a client is shouting on the phone, there occurs a denial-of-service attack or some other sudden threat and so on.

Each of these scenarios throws a person on the first step of the process, which is blaming others, and from there begins the path through justify, shame and obligation all the way to the responsibility. While being in the middle of the process we are not bringing our best ideas and effort to the table, we’re merely surviving.

Only at the state of responsibility are we able to reach creativity and innovative problem-solving. And once we get there, we will feel better and the agony over the situation will vanish.

Promising the moon?

Indeed. Let’s start to study this model together and find out what each step contains, how to get from one to another and what awaits at the end.

Does this raise your interest a little, a lot or a hell of a lot? Come for a chat at our Slack community!

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