Thoughts on role expectations on empowered product teams

Jason Yip
2 min readJul 11, 2023
Prompt: “Create an abstract image representing role expectations”

It’s useful to be clear about role expectations.

Poorly defined roles increase the need for communications and increase the time spent in meetings.

Donald G. Reinertsen, The Principles of Product Development Flow: Second Generation Lean Product Development

Clarity creates speed.

If you can join a new team OR work with another team, and already know what is expected from you and others, you save time having to learn and negotiate expectations. Onboarding is faster, interactions are smoother.

Clarity reduces the chance of missing or duplicating activities.

If everyone is clear about what they should be doing, it’s less likely that an activity is missed (“I thought you were doing that”) or duplicated (“I didn’t realise you were doing that”).

But it’s also useful not to be overly restrictive on roles.

When something is needed to be done, we want team members to help each other, even if it happens to be outside the strict definition of their role.

We also want to encourage cross-training to reduce the number of people (and associated coordination) required to do things.

Collective responsibility, single point of accountability

“Responsibility” and “accountability” are not synonymous.

We want every team member to have collective responsibility, that is everyone pitches in as needed to achieve our shared goals.

We also want a clear point of contact, someone who can “hold an account” on a specific topic, and break ties when collaborative decision-making gets stuck. This is what “accountability” is about.

See also

My default role expectations on empowered product teams

Product is accountable for business outcomes, defining and communicating product strategy and roadmaps, and quarter-by-quarter, month-by-month, week-by-week priorities.

Engineering is accountable for delivery and the delivery plan (including schedule and timing), providing visibility of progress, schedule changes, technical design choices, system quality, and enabling the flexibility to respond to changing priorities.

Design is accountable for user experience.

Insights is accountable for metrics and experiment design.

See also



Jason Yip

Senior Manager Product Engineering at Grainger. Extreme Programming, Agile, Lean guy. Ex-Spotify, ex-ThoughtWorks, ex-CruiseControl