There’s little that kills drive more than not knowing what your responsibilities are. This is particularly true for teams collaborating remotely. The RACI matrix provides a detailed structure to make sure that everyone knows their exact role.
You’ve just concluded a meeting introducing a new project to your team. You concluded the meeting by dividing tasks amongst your employees and set off to begin this new venture, secure in the knowledge that the work had been distributed evenly. The next week you check in with one of your employees to see how they’re progressing. Your employee directs you to their colleague; they had decided to swap tasks after the meeting ended. That employee hasn’t gotten around to starting yet, they have a pile of things to get through first. Later that same day you receive an update from another employee. It’s complete, but not what you wanted. How did you end up in this mess? Hadn’t you divided up the work last week?
While the team many have gotten a global view of the project at last week’s meeting, there was insufficient detail when assigning the roles. Lack of specificity when assigning tasks can lead to all kinds of workplace frustrations — employees feeling like their decisions are being undercut at the last minute, slow approval processes, multiple people doing the same task, tasks that end up forgotten. This kind of confusion can also have effects on broader company culture, with confusion around general job conceptions and expectations.
The RACI matrix
This is where the RACI matrix comes in. RACI stands for Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed, which are the roles that need to be established in order for a project to be properly organized. The RACI matrix is used to explicitly identify processes and assign stakeholders to specific roles related to those processes. The roles break down like this:
| Responsible: this describes a person or people who are responsible for doing the work to complete a task.
| Accountable: the accountable can also do work on the task, but is the person who is ultimately accountable for the task’s completion and is the final decision maker in case of conflict. There can only be one accountable for each task.
| Consulted: this person provides feedback on the task and can contribute, but is not strictly responsible.
| Informed: this person should be kept informed of decisions related to the task.
The RACI table
To build a RACI table you lay out all tasks or deliverables on the vertical axis and all people involved in the project on the horizontal axis. At the intersections of activity and role you can assign somebody responsible, accountable, consulted or informed.
Assigning roles for each task is the first step, but in order for this method to be effective there must be clear deliverables attached to each activity. These actions should be short, specific, and directly linked to the task. For example, as the responsible for quality management, Michael’s direction could be, “solicit user feedback to identify product problems.”
Once all tasks have been matched to their RACI inputs the next step is to review the assignments and make sure they are clear to the people assigned. Start by going along the vertical axis to make sure that everyone has been assigned roles that match their abilities.
Make sure one employee isn’t loaded with R’s that they couldn’t possibly stay on top of. Try to distribute the A’s so that one person does not end up accountable for the entire project.
Next go along the horizontal axis. Does each task have at least one A and one R? Is there more than one A on any tasks? Too many R’s? Too many C’s and I’s can slow things down, are these assigned only where necessary?
Once you have clarified and agreed on each input you’re ready to begin the project with a clear division of responsibility. Although developing and reviewing a RACI matrix can feel like a big time commitment in the moment, it will always beat the frustrations that come with unclear division of roles.
It can be tempting to use RACI as a cure-all tool when facing any kind of disorganization, but arranging everything by RACI can dilute its effect and tire out your employees. It’s also important to remain realistic when implementing a RACI matrix. Try not to lose sight of your original purpose in the quest to make the most detailed and perfect RACI matrix.