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Why the word 'roles' used for Scrum Team has been changed to 'accountabilities' in the scrum guide?

So, with the update to the Scrum Guide in 2020, the term 'roles' has been replaced with 'accountability' for the members of the Scrum team. As the adoption of scrum increases globally, so does the chances of words and terms often being misinterpreted or misunderstood.

Case in point, a lot of companies around the world now use the term 'Scrum Master' to define job titles. Job titles have a habit of extending the role beyond the responsibilities mentioned in the Scrum Guide, e.g. sending updates about Scrum team performance to senior management. This is not a responsibility of the scrum master, although this might be delegated to him/her by the organization. In the light of such extensions and sometimes outright misinterpretations, the switch from 'roles' to 'accountabilities' has been made. It's also essential to understand the meaning of the term role. Just a quick google search brings up this definition of the word role, "the function assumed or part played by a person or thing in a particular situation". It's evident from this definition that roles have a temporary nature, akin to someone acting out the role when required. Therefore, it's not necessary that you'll be always playing that role.

Another quick search online will reveal the definition of the term accountability, which is an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility for one's actions. Going by the definition, in the most minimalistic sense, the scrum master's or the product owner's defined accountabilities make him/her responsible for actions outlined in the scrum guide and those actions only. However, organizations can choose to freely extend the responsibilities associated with these roles to other tasks as long as it does not contradict or undermine the core accountability defined in the guide. You can still refer to them as 'roles' if you like. Just remember that these are roles with specific accountabilities.


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