Directly Responsible Individual

A DRI is a commonly used organizational pattern where one person is directly responsible for the overall outcome of an initiative. This avoids many pitfalls like a tragedy of the commons where responsibility is shared amongst everyone and therefore everyone loses all accountability.

It’s challenging but rewarding. This model relies on individual contributors that have the skills to successfully lead, project manage, communicate, and be effective outside of their own domain. For example, a backend engineer might be the DRI for a product feature that includes UI design and frontend work even though they themselves are not a designer or a frontend engineer. The key is being able to extract the best result from others and work through them.

In my career, I’ve worked with this “DRI model” for many years with mixed results. As a manager, I’ve had to intervene in projects going off the rails (delegation not abdication). The most common complaint I’ve heard about being a DRI is that larger initiatives require project management—widely undervalued by engineers—and needs a lot of coaching and help.