At Mäd, we're big fans of keeping things simple and clear. The RACI Matrix is one tool that we use to make sure that project responsibilities are clear to everyone involved.

It addition, is also helps us to move past the usual bureaucratic hurdles that effect many other projects and companies. You may have previously heard the following:

  • "Getting anything approved takes ages, even for the simplest of tasks"
  • "We always end up with multiple people working separately on the same task or data"
  • "A few things are always slipping through the cracks"
  • "My company holds me responsible for this task, but I haven't been given the full authority to get the job done!"
  • "My boss is always overruling my decisions at the last minute."

All these are symptoms of a lack of clear responsibilities, and this is one the of the major reasons why projects, across many different industries, either fail or go significantly over their stated timelines and budgets.

Having clear responsibilities nowadays is even more important than the very definition of what makes up a team. For any non-trivial project, there will be multiple team members, often working in different companies (including subcontractors) spread across different geographical timezones, and they will also each have their own specialities. This is true cross-functional teamwork, but many companies are still working as if we're in the 1950's, with everyone is sitting next to each other with one boss looking at everything.

The RACI Matrix also helps people to clarify and reconcile the three things that people need to do a good job:

  1. A Clear Role Conception - What they believe their job is, including key responsibilities and also what they shouldn't do (often just as important!)
  2. A Clear Expectation of their Role - What other people they work with think that job is, and how it should be carried out.
  3. Their Behavior - What the person doing that job is actually doing.  

The RACI Matrix Roles.

RACI stands for the following:

  • Responsible: People or stakeholders who do the work. They must complete the task or objective or make the decision. Several people can be jointly Responsible.
  • Accountable: Person or stakeholder who is the "owner" of the work. He or she must sign off or approve when the task, objective or decision is complete. This person must make sure that responsibilities are assigned in the matrix for all related activities. Success requires that there is only one person Accountable, which means that "the buck stops there."
  • Consulted: People or stakeholders who need to give input before the work can be done and signed-off on. These people are "in the loop" and active participants.
  • Informed: People or stakeholders who need to be kept "in the picture." They need updates on progress or decisions, but they do not need to be formally consulted, nor do they contribute directly to the task or decision.

However, we should be clear that these are roles not people. One role may have multiple people, and multiple people may be in one role, with the exception of the "accountable" role, which should one have clear person.

Creating a RACI Matrix.

This is best done in a spreadsheet, as it is best tool for this type of work.

There are three key components:

  1. Getting a comprehensive list of tasks and areas.
  2. Adding all the people/teams in the project
  3. Mapping out which part of the RACI each box should have.  

It's best to put all the key positions horizontally, and the tasks or key areas of the projects vertically, as there tend to be far more tasks than people, and so as the project moves forwards this format is far more maintainable.

Here's an example:

Once the first draft of the RACI matrix is complete, there will be likely be some ambiguities that need to be taken care of. By reviewing the spread of the RACI codes in the various fields, we can actually gain several key insights into how we aim to structure the project, and then make appropriate changes to ensure project success.

Analyzing a RACI Matrix.

RACI Matrix Vertical Analysis.

By looking at the vertical distribution of the RACI codes, we may see:

  • A lot of R's: Is it possible for the individual(s) to stay on top of so much? Can the activity be broken into smaller, more manageable chunks?
  • No empty spaces: Does the individual(s) need to be involved in so many activities? Are they a 'gatekeeper' or could management by exception principles be used? Can consulted be (R)educed to (I)nformed, or can things be left to the individual's discretion when something needs particular attention?
  • No R's or A's: Should this functional role be eliminated or have processes changed to an extent where resources could be reassigned?
  • Too many A's: Does a proper 'segregation of duties' exists? Should other groups be accountable for some of these activities to ensure checks and balances and accurate decision making throughout the process? Is this a 'bottleneck' in the process. Is everyone waiting for decisions or direction?
  • Qualifications: Does the level of the person fit the requirement of this role? Are too many senior personnel involved for routine decision making that could be deployed downwards?

RACI Matrix Horizontal Analysis.

  • No R's: Who is doing the job and getting things done? Are there too many roles waiting to be approved, be consulted or informed. Whose role is it to take the initiative?
  • Too many R's: Is this a sign of 'over the wall' activities?
  • No A's: Why not? There must be an 'A.' someone must be accountable for the thing happening - the buck stops with this person.
  • Too many A's: Is there confusion with too many fingers in the pie? It can also create confusion because every person with accountability feels they have final say on how the work should be done.
  • Too few A's and R's: The process may slow down while the activity is performed or the procedure may be outdated and can be streamlined if not needed.
  • Every box filled in: Do all the functional roles really need to be consulted? Are there justifiable benefits in consulting all the roles or is this just covering all the bases?
  • A lot of C's: Do all the roles need to be routinely informed or only in exceptional circumstances? Too many in the loop can slow the process down.
  • A lot of I's: If too many people are involved, usually too many C's and I's, it can dramatically slow things down.

Using RACI Sensibly.

There is a fine line when listing the tasks for the RACI Matrix.

Go too high-level, and many things will slip through and the whole exercise will have been pointless.

Go into too much detail, and well done, you've just become a micro-manager, which is perhaps the most universally hated of all types of managers.

The best way to decide if something should be the RACI Matrix is to think of process, not one off tasks.

So the user interface of a new feature should be in the RACI Matrix, as it is likely that several parties will be required. The designers who are actually doing the job, the client who's paying for it, the developers who need to build it, and the project manager who needs to keep his eye on the budget and timelines.

However, who's making the coffee on Wednesday or whether a particular button in the design should be red or green, should be left to the people best suited to the job, and not included in the RACI Matrix.

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