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Project Management: Are You RACI?
By Debra Sunohara

In this article I would like to introduce those of you not already familiar with it to the RACI. It is one tool that I believe all managers and project managers alike must have in their back pocket for those times when you need a really straightforward communication and planning tool that can be used to identify and communicate roles and responsibilities in any process/change management/project or initiative.

RACI stands for …

Responsible – performs the activity/does the work
Accountable – ultimately accountable – has YES/NO veto
Consulted – contributes to the activity and needs feedback
Informed – needs to be kept in the loop – know decision or action

RACI, RASCI, RAM, RAMI…

Call it what you like – it doesn’t really matter as long as you use one!

Some people prefer to use the acronyms RASCI (“S” added for Support), RAM (Responsibility Assignment Matrix) or RAMI, but regardless of the acronym, we are talking about the same simple, practical and efficient communication and project planning tool.

The RACI is a matrix in which you include tasks or activities in the vertical column against resources in the horizontal axis.

RACI Example

Figure 1: RACI Example

The RACI is a:

  • Communication tool – a form of checklist/simple project plan that keeps everyone in the loop and on the same page. It should ensure that everyone on the team has the same information and shares a common understanding of who is going to do what and who is responsible for what.
  • Record of decisions including tasks, roles, and responsibilities .
  • An excellent way to Confirm a common understanding of roles and responsibilities following a meeting (get sign off).
  • Customizable – add a column for deadlines, format, comments as suited to your needs.

Communication is never perfect. The strength of the RACI is its simple ability to communicate and confirm the message. You may think that everyone at the meeting understood and agreed to the same decisions/task assignments/expectations that you did, but until you put those in writing and receive confirmation that everyone shares your understanding and agrees with it – you are increasing the risk that the message they understood is not the message that was intended.

There are so many instances in day-to-day life where you might find a RACI useful; organizing your child’s hockey team party, planning a wedding or family reunion, any kind of committee work.

An everyday example where I use a RACI is to coordinate joint venture proposal submissions. It is already a challenge to put together large proposals when one company is involved, but a much greater feat when several companies are involved. The need to validate a shared understanding of the activities required, the roles and responsibilities of all parties involved, permissions required, and submission deadlines for various content pieces is essential to my ability to orchestrate the on-time creation of a quality proposal.

A RACI can also be a useful tool for:

  • Workload analysis and avoiding duplication
  • Re-organization
  • New employee orientation
  • Conflict resolution
  • Stakeholder analysis and management – who are the key players?
  • Delegating
  • Managing processes
  • Decision making (documenting how decisions will be made)
  • Documenting the “as is” state of roles and responsibilities in an organisation

6 Steps to Building and Using a RACI

  1. Identify all of the tasks/activities/processes involved and list them in order of occurrence down the left-hand column.
  2. Identify all of the roles/participants/stakeholders/players/team members across the top row.
  3. Fill in the cells by assigning each an R, A, C, I (or other) for each process/activity/task
  4. Take a step back and ensure that you do not want to add additional information – that your team would not benefit from additional columns such as deadline dates, comments, reference docs, templates, etc. – this is where you customize.
  5. Date and number the version – send it to all listed in the RACI and request confirmation that they are in agreement.
  6. Update the RACI as needed and resend to all players with new version number and date.

3 Things to Remember When you Build a RACI:

  1. Only one person can have an “A” per activity – otherwise you introduce confusion as to who is ultimately accountable.
  2. Limit the number of “R”s per activity to avoid duplication of work.
  3. Always include a legend of what R, A, C, and I stand for

Another way to look at the use of a RACI is through a Demming lens; it is a way to build some plan-do-check-act quality into your work.

So managers, the next time you are feeling scared off by the thought of complex project plans but aware that you do need something to keep your small project on track, under control, and all of the stakeholders/team members informed and in the loop…then why not try a RACI?

Debra Sunohara is the Practice Lead for Project Management at Delta Partners. You can read more of her work on The Delta Blog.

Delta Partners is a full-service management consulting company based in Ottawa, Canada. Visit their website for more blog posts, white papers, and ebooks on a variety of management and leadership topics.

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