Having managed and saved dozens of projects, and helped others to do so, I’ve noticed that there is always one critical success factor (CSF) that was either effectively addressed or missed/spoiled: clarity around roles and responsibilities for each project. participant and key stakeholder. No matter how detailed and comprehensive a project plan can be for any project, confusion or omission of participants’ roles and responsibilities will cause major problems.
Enter the RACI matrix. The simplest and most effective approach I have seen and used for defining and documenting project roles and responsibilities is the RACI model. Embedding the RACI model into an organization’s Project Life Cycle (PLC) creates a powerful synergy that improves and enhances project results.
What is a RACI matrix?
The RACI Matrix is an assignment of responsibilities chart that outlines each key task, step, or decision involved in completing a project and assigns roles Responsible for each action item, what personnel are Accountableand, if so, who should be Consulted or Informed. The acronym RACI represents the four roles that stakeholders can play in any project.
In almost 100% of these rescue efforts, I have found that there is no common understanding of the roles and responsibilities of the participants, nor explicit supporting documentation. Building such consensus using the RACI model almost always revives a stalled project and allows key stakeholders to easily address other issues that require resolution.
RACI Roles and Responsibilities
The RACI model brings structure and clarity to the description of the roles that stakeholders play within a project. The RACI matrix clarifies responsibilities and ensures that everything the project needs to do is assigned to someone to do it.
The four roles that stakeholders can play in any project are:
- Responsible: People or stakeholders who carry out the work. They have to complete the task or the goal or make the decision. Several people can be jointly Responsible.
- Accountable: Person or participant who is the “owner” of the work. He or she must sign off or approve when the task, goal, or decision is complete. This person should ensure that responsibilities are assigned in the matrix for all related activities. Success demands that there is only one person Accountablewhich means that “the responsibility stops there”.
- Consulted: Persons or stakeholders who must give their opinion before the work can be carried out and approved. These people are “in the know” and actively participate.
- Informed: People or stakeholders who need to be kept “in the picture”. They need updates on progress or decisions, but they don’t need to be formally consulted or directly contribute to the task or decision.
How to create a RACI matrix
The simple process of creating a RACI model consists of the following six steps:
- Identify all tasks involved in delivering the project and list them on the left side of the board in order of completion. For IT projects, this is most effectively solved by incorporating PLC milestones and deliverables. (This is shown in the detailed example below, after the simplified version below.)
- Identify all project stakeholders and list them at the top of the table.
- Fill in the cells of the template identifying who has responsibility, accountability and who will be consulted and informed for each task.
- Make sure every task has at least one stakeholder Responsible for that.
- No task should have more than one stakeholder Accountable. Resolve all conflicts when there are multiple conflicts for a particular task.
- Share, discuss and agree the RACI model with your stakeholders early in the project. This includes resolving any conflicts or ambiguities.
Here is an illustration of such a simplified RACI model:
RACI Matrix Best Practices
Simply creating a RACI matrix is not enough. You must ensure that the matrix corresponds to a successful strategy. Here, the conflicts and ambiguities of the plan must be resolved.
Resolving conflicts and ambiguities in a RACI matrix involves looking in each row and column for the following:
Analysis for each stakeholder:
- Are there too many R: Does a stakeholder have too much of the project assigned to them?
- No empty cells: Should the stakeholder be involved in so many activities? Can Responsible be changed into ConsultedWhere Consulted changed into Informed? That is, are there too many “cooks in this kitchen” to get things done? (And if so, what does that say about the culture in which this project is run?)
- Membership: Is each actor totally in agreement with the role assigned to him in this version of the model? Where such agreement is reached, it should be included in the project charter and documentation.
Analysis for each PLC or deliverable step:
No R: Who does the work in this step and gets things done? Whose role is it to take the initiative?
Too much R: Is this another sign that there are too many “cooks in this kitchen” to get things done?
No A: Who is Accountable? There must be an ‘A’ for each step in the automaton. A stakeholder must be Accountable for the thing that happens – “responsibility stops” with this person.
More than one A: Is there confusion about decision rights? Responsible stakeholders have the final say on how work should be done and how conflicts are resolved. Multiple A’s invite slow and contentious decision-making.
Each filled box: Do we really need to involve all stakeholders? Are there justifiable benefits to involving all stakeholders, or does it just cover all the bases?
Lots of C’s: Do all stakeholders need to be regularly Consultedwhere can they be kept Informed and raise exceptional circumstances if they feel they need to be Consulted? Too much C in the loop really slows down the project.
Are all real stakeholders included in this model: Sometimes it’s more of a challenge, because it’s an error of omission. This issue is often best addressed by a steering committee or management team.
RACI matrix in project management
It is the analyzes above, which are easily made possible by the use of a RACI matrix, that provide the real benefit of the model. It is the integration of the model with a specific PLC that ensures that the project is structured for success. Without either of these components, issues with the structure of the project management process can remain hidden until (or even while…) they cause the project to stall. Taking the time and effort to create a custom PLC/RACI for every major project is an opportunity to design your project management process for project success.