Developing software? Get accountability first

With ever-increasing customer demands, the future will continually be defined by greater transparency and data privacy guarantees. But as software vendors adapt, they often forget that it’s not just about changing their external strategy; they must also look within.

Software accountability offers a new perspective for creating and managing digital products, primarily by making processes more reliable and transparent for every stakeholder involved. According to Patrick Lencioni, a veteran team management author, responsibility represents a clear sign of a strong and successful team.

These are the steps to embedding accountability into the fabric of your business.

Know that the blame is not pointed
Accountability is not limited to answering for one’s actions. It refers to create a culture“where new ideas are welcomed, people across the organization work together to pursue common goals, where we train people to bring bad news so we can act on it, and where failures and mishaps are treated as learning opportunities rather than witch hunts.”

To prioritize autonomy, competence and belonging (the feeling of being connected to others) is fundamental. When an error appears, the conversation can start right away, not for the purpose of pointing fingers but of redirect. Ultimately, mistakes represent a chance to move up a gear; they should not be obscured but held as a badge of an important lesson for the whole team.

Formalizing responsibility in a comprehensive document is an essential investment for startups. At Octobot, we have created a playbook where, besides basic rules such as “Don’t assume people know something they don’t”, we emphasize the importance of empathy. Team members must collaborate and try to understand each other to adopt the best course of action in a given situation.

Implementing the Four Steps to Accountability
Whatever your setup, be aware that accountability must be governed by absolute transparency. You can’t hold people accountable unless you give them the information and tools they need to develop solutions they also feel capable of executing. Here are four ways to get started.

sow the seeds
Starting small allows you to build positive momentum and accountability structures to build a healthy customer relationship step by step. With smaller projects, you can also get results as quickly as possible before scaling up.

A notorious mistake in software development projects is jumping straight to the development stage. A lack of understanding and planning ahead can have fatal consequences for your business, including skyrocketing project costs, delays in timelines, or launching a product that no one will use. Don’t underestimate the initial diagnosis: Analyze how much information you have and what you may need to investigate to better understand users and capture project goals.

Set up a dedicated team
If you have a team dedicated to one project at a time, you can increase your focus and engagement over time. However, always make sure the team has all the nuts and bolts to make independent decisions to be successful.

We had to learn it the hard way: in the past, we didn’t share all the necessary information with the team involved in each project. For example, we did not see the need for them to know the value of the contract. But over time, we realized how vital it was for them to have this information to make more accurate budgets, plan for a fixed term, or even conduct better negotiations with clients.

Communicate frequently and openly
Today, 83% of decision makers say better sharing and communication are crucial for software development organizations. Therefore, you should encourage the team to discuss their work and candidly share their decisions to ensure team alignment and a shared focus on business priorities.

Scrum and other agile methodologies give you plenty of touchpoint opportunities to make sure everyone is on the same page. Ceremonies (daily, planning, retrospectives, etc.) should become open spaces where everyone feels comfortable sharing their thoughts, challenges and suggestions. Accountability thrives when people are transparent and supportive: issues are dissected, and everyone understands their impact and collectively proposes the best next steps.

Giving ownership
For true accountability, let the team know they can push back on requirements if they see a better way of doing things, as long as the interests of customers are considered. Each individual should feel safe and inspired to speak up, brainstorm, use tools like mood boards, and share feedback openly. The equation here is simple: information + commitment + decision-making power = responsibility.

It would be contrary to the very principles of accountability for startups to adopt it by simply incorporating a rigid set of rules. Being accountable is about finding what works best for everyone involved — and as the leader of your business, your job is to observe that over time and take action to help your team succeed.