The rules of the conscious responsibility

What is responsibility

It means capacity to foresee, percept, act, and react to anything that ensures or threatens good outcome. Responsibility is not about the blame. But it may end up in uncomfortable situation if the good outcome fails.

Visual representation of responsibility

Responsibility can be represented as a circle where delegated parts are represented by subcircles. This can go on recursively. For example the biggest circle means CEO who oversees the whole company and the smaller circles mean CFO, CTO, and COO. These can be subdelegated further. What is important to notice is that by delegating only part is given away but some surrounding activities are still kept, for example checking that the delegate has proper input and produces proper output.

Hierarchy vs flatness

This is meaningless especially in an organization context. Some companies prefer to be flat in order to avoid useless power-structures. In one hand responsibility generally tends to be hierarchical leading to hierarchical structure. The flatness can also be possible with certain conditions:

Example: Support person has doctor appointment and is missing first half of the day. Any team member who hears phone ringing handles the client until the support person is back and hands the case over.

There is no collective responsibility

Every person is responsible by his own actions. Even when agreeing with bigger group. If you agree with political leader idea, you assume part of the responsibility of the outcomes. When things go wrong and you look toward the group who is behind it, you cannot turn to any particular person, you don't know whom to keep accountable for bad outcome, you don't get clear answers from anyone, and people try to hide themselves behind other members' backs.

Therefore responsibility is always individual.


Responsibility can be delegated as whole or as parts. In that case delegator keeps passive responsibility and the delegate has active responsibility. If the delegate fails in his duties, the active responsibility goes back to delegator.

Only one person can be responsible for one thing

There can be no two persons responsible for the same thing. In many cases when it appears so, then taking a closer look we see that the object may be the same, but two people are taking care of different aspects of one object.

If there would be more than one person responsible for one thing, it would mean group responsibility which results in a mess.

Assuming multiple related hierarchical responsibilities (roles) does not work

When a person has responsibility of a doer and a manager, then in reality it seems to happen that the person ends up in the lower end of the responsibilities. In this example he ends up as a doer.

A domain without responsibility is chaotic

When there is a certain are in the organization where there is no clear responsibility defined, that are will be chaotic. For example, if there is no responsibility who cleans up kitchen area, then it can stay dirty or occasionally cleaned by somebody.

Anger, blame, and justification

When there are reactions of anger or blame -- it is always an indication of not taking responsibility. Whatever turns up in our reality, it means it has relation to us, we are part of causing this. (Self)justification is a symptom of guilt.

Elon Musk has something related to this: No asshole policy.

Responsibility as a creative power

You can change only things for which you take responsibility. When there is something in your organization that bugs you, then the way to change it is to take responsibility to change that. Complaining would only hold the problem in place. You don't even need to know the solution, but by taking responsibility you start to attract all you need for the change.

Overview and oversight

The "higher" is somebody in the responsibility "chain" the larger/grander overview and oversight of the whole domain.

Decision vs action

Imagine a situation in an organization. There is a delegator and delegate (boss and underling). When the underling carries our certain action which has either results or consequences who to keep responsible, and from which aspect? I think we can keep delegator responsible for the decision, and delegate for the action.

Fusion of responsibilities

Often when things go wrong we are looking for who to punish. Looking the situation closer often appears that all related people had some sort of responsibility there. By looking for the culprit we are trying to wash our hands.

Trying to come up with an example. In family a man is violent toward woman. We immediately sympathize with the woman because she appears to be the victim. Looking closer we may discover that woman is verbally violent toward the man, which is unbearably painful for him. So who is responsible? Both, one for the word-violence, the other for physical-violence.

Visibility is limited by responsibility

When one assumes responsibility in certain domain then the person gains visibility over it and based on the visible information can make adequate decisions. It means that a delegate lacks overview of the umbrella responsibility. 

Bad example: An underling wants to be a boss. Unless taking full responsibility, which may clash with current boss, the underling is not able acquire proper perspective to make proper decisions.

Wanting, doing, tasks and Responsibility are separate things

Wanting something is creating distance with the object because wanting is based on the belief "I don't have it".

Doing means carrying an action, but it does not necessarily mean responsibility.

Tasks mean distinct unit of action to provide certain outcome.

I see in many discussions when I ask about responsibility, the talk deviated to doing and tasks - and the responsibility is lost. 

Responsibility is based on the acceptance "this exists", and is therefore powerful creative force.