The responsibility assignment matrix or RACI matrix is a useful project planning tool. Yet we often see it used incorrectly.
Let’s keep things simple and offer a concise RACI matrix definition … that makes it clear who does what.
How to Use the Responsibility Assignment Matrix
This is really straightforward! Take a minute, and you’ll get it right every time.
And, people will be certain what role they fulfil in the project or business change endeavour.
The RACI Matrix Definition
We use the the responsibility assignment matrix or RACI matrix when we need to make clear the roles in projects or processes. There are four key roles are included in the RACI matrix definition. These are:
- Responsible – the person who does something as part of their job or role to do a specific task or activity.
- Accountable – the person who is expected to justify actions taken or decisions made to deliver the completed task or activity.
- Consulted – groups or people whose opinions are sought by the person responsible for the task or activity.
- Informed – those groups or people that should be kept up-to-date on progress with the task or activity.
Correct Use of the RACI Matrix
When we prepare a responsibility assignment matrix we need to remember the following rules … every time:
- the roles that are responsible and accountable are only ever assigned to one person,
- sometimes the role that is accountable for a task is also responsible for achieving it ― in such circumstances the responsible role is omitted since it is implied,
- withstanding the previous exception, all roles are mutually exclusive ― for instance, you cannot have roles that are both responsible and consulted or consulted and informed,
- the role that is responsible seeks advice from the consulted ― this involves two-way communication,
- the role that is responsible updates the informed― this is one-way communication, and
- roles that are responsible may delegate tasks to others in their team.
If you break these simple rules, you create uncertainty and confusion. And, when someone is made responsible for something, be sure they have the necessary authority to make it happen.
To illustrate how a poorly constructed RACI matrix can lead to conflict, take a look at the following images from Wikipedia. These demonstrate both proper and improper use of the responsibility assignment matrix or RACI matrix.
Can you spot incorrect use of the RACI matrix?
When do you use the responsibility assignment matrix or RACI matrix?
Image: Airman Magazine.
No matter what project size, job descriptions should be clearly defined. Whether it’s a 5-person team or an international collaboration, everyone needs to understand their role: that being the tasks and activities each person must complete. One way to define each team member’s role is to use a RACI matrix. An example of a responsibility assignment matrix, it shows the expense at the lowest level of work for the purpose of managing cost and duration. It is a charting system that illustrates the task’s goal and the required action for each person. This assists with reducing confusion on expectations, in turn, increasing project efficiency. In this context, decisions are made more quickly, accountability is clear and workload is evenly distributed. But wait, is the RACI matrix the be-all and end-all? I will let you know what the project management professionals think. But first…
If you would like to explicitly communicate on a project, the RACI matrix can help with that. RACI organizes your project so that everyone knows what’s happening. With RACI, map out who is Responsible, is Accountable, must be Consulted with, and shall stay Informed.
Lets break it down further. Here is what your project delegation looks like with RACI.
Responsible – Who is completing the task.
Accountable – Who is making decisions and taking actions on the task(s).
Consulted – Who will be communicated with regarding decisions and tasks.
Informed – Who will be updated on decisions and actions during the project.
Need to see more about RACI? Download the RACI Chart Guide & Templates – Free.
If you are interested in downloading your Free RACI Guide, that’s great! To do this, first, become a member of project-management.com. Second, open your dashboard and you will see RACI Matrix Guide + Templates at the top. Added bonus, once you are a member, get a 10% discount on our online PMP Certification Course.
Join the project-management.com today! Signing-up is easy.
Even the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide) has a section for RACI under matrix-based charts. The PMBOK uses RACI as an example of a Responsibility Assignment Matrix, RAM. A RAM serves the purpose of showing which activities belong to each team member.
For more information about the PMBOK Guide, we wrote an article for you.
Let’s understand RACI better with a simplified example. John is developing software feature X that will be integrated with software feature Y – developed by Jess. Mike is the project manager and Irina is in marketing. For feature X, John is responsible, Mike is accountable, and Jess needs to be consulted with as her feature will integrate with John’s. Lastly, Irina simply needs to be informed when the task is complete.
What Makes RACI Useful?
It informs the organisation about its employees workload as it shows which role(s) are assigned to each person. For example, the organisation can see if someone has been placed in the responsible role too many times or not. In other words, does this person have a lot or a too few tasks to complete. That way, the organisation knows whether someone has too many or could take-on more responsibilities.
Use RACI for the successful completion of a project as everyone impacted is in the loop. This reduces miscommunication and increases productivity. So, if a task was incorrectly completed RACI tells you who was involved and ultimately accountable.
In short, RACI makes it easier for you to have the right conversation with the right people. In turn, saving everyone time.
RACI Users: What do The PMs Think of this type of responsibility assignment matrix?
- It’sConfusing. Working with this matrix can lead to confusion about required actions:
- This tool explains each person’s role, but the necessary action(s) for each role can be unclear. Some feel that it’s not clear whether the responsible or accountable plans the task. With that being said, you could look at RACI in this way – apply the matrix as deemed necessary. You choose if the responsible or the accountable plans the task.
- The consult role is unclear. The project manager and the person consulted need to decide whether the consulted will only give direction when asked or whether they will offer direction when they feel it is suitable, and make sure their input is implemented.
- It won’t fix a dysfunctional team. PM’s feel that the RACI matrix will not fix a team that has poor moral. Before RACI can be effective, you must have a team that has no issues. RACI is not a tool that fixes a dysfunctional team. RACI improves communication flow in a cohesive group.
- Is the responsible not accountable? There’s the impression that it’s the case as it is a separate role, hence, a different person. To reiterate, some feel that if the accountable and responsible are different people it means that the responsible is not accountable for his/her actions. Alternatively, this could be sorted-out between these two roles.
- RACI’s Variations and Alternatives – More Confusion or Benefits? Depending on the setup of the project team, the RACI matrix has variations and alternatives. PMs criticize these because they feel that the variations/alternatives are trying to compensate for the matrix’s original design. If it had been designed well, one version of the matrix would suffice. On the other hand, having alternatives/variations to choose from means that the matrix is flexible to the team’s needs.
- RACI is a tool to organize team members in accordance with the goal of the project. If there are aspects of RACI that are too vague, consider that as an opportunity for the PM to think outside the “matrix”, aka box, and adapt this tool to his/her team – providing that is suitable.
- How PMs have used RACI
Professionals in the PM field have found that they have benefited from using the RACI matrix by following these 6 steps:
- List of project tasks
- Identify project stakeholders
- Know the responsible and accountable for each task along with its stakeholders
- At least one stakeholder accountable for every task
- Only one accountable stakeholder
- The final step includes a discussion with all the stakeholder and will be explained in the next part of this article. This is to ensure that the stakeholders understands their role. This is a recommended use of RACI for IT projects.
- Good for scrum teams?
Here is an example of how one PM used RACI in a scrum context. To meet the goal of the project, he added F to RACI: Facilitate activities. To summarize, the person in the F role, Facilitate, organized the activities for the scrum project as illustrated in the image below. The use of RACI in a scrum context stimulated an interesting discussion between PM professionals. Some felt that this model would provide recognition of a job well done, or blame of a poorly executed job, to one person – impacting team cohesion. This way of organizing would impact the fundamentals of Scrum – self organization. Counter arguments included, one must consider the extent to which RACI is applied. To use RACI to its potential, it is suggested that you find a balance between ridged roles and responsibilities, and flexibility in a self organizing team. Is that possible?
PlanHammer – RACI Matrix software
Interested in a project management software that has a RACI Matrix + Work Breakdown Structure, then checkout PlanHammer – a combination of classical and agile tools with a Kanban board.
How to Make RACI Work for You
As noted above this type of responsibility assignment matrix is effective. To know how to apply this model you should analyse, analyse, analyse! Balance is your key to success with RACI. If there are too many or not enough people in each role it slows down the completion of your project tasks or even prevents completion.
To use RACI effectively make sure to have:
- One accountable per task. If you have more than one, it would be like having multiple people driving a car. It doesn’t work! If there is no driver, it will be hard to get that car to move forward – no decisions or action are taken on the project.
- The right amount of people responsible. Too many people assigned to the same task, and you have an excellent way to waste time. You also may get duplicate work. If you have a quick and simple task, the responsible could also be the accountable.
- Do not have too many consults: it could slow the task completion. If you need to consult with several people before completing your task, you have yourself another time waster. Or, conflicting input on how to complete the task.
- Keep people Informed. Perhaps you don’t need to consult with people, you simply need to update them. Make sure you have people in this role otherwise you could have problems relating to a lack of communication.
How do you get the right balance with RACI?
Make it a collaborative effort. Everyone should be comfortable with each role that they and their counterparts have. In short, improve communication and efficiency with the RACI matrix. Used to it’s potential, everyone wins. You will stop receiving unnecessary information, like an abundance of emails that you may not need to read. You will also increase job satisfaction with clearly defined roles.
RACI Videos: What You Need to Know
These first two videos provide you a short snippet of how RACI can work for you. Looking for a longer explanation? Watch video 3.
1. This a 5 minute video regarding the basics of RACI and how the program can benefit your organisation.
Ready to Make Your Own RACI chart?
2. This video shows you how in just 1 minute
3. Take it even further with this video. This 20 minute video will walk you through how RACI will help you manage matters related to efficiency, accountability and role clarification. After you answer questions relating to your organisation, this RACI video takes you through a hypothetical situation about what it would look like if no one completed a task, and how RACI can manage it.
In sum, it’s evident that a well organised team is crucial to successfully complete a project. A responsibility assignment matrix is advantageous, if not paramount, in achieving this. RACI has proven to be beneficial, yet it has its drawbacks. Still, consider that with any PM tool finding the one that works the best for you is key. I hope this article was beneficial. And now it’s your turn, I would like to hear from you. Have you used RACI? What has been your experience?