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Project Management Spotlight: Understanding the RACI Matrix
Projects succeed and fail for many reasons. Either way, we always look back and identify what we did right and, more importantly, where it all went wrong. Defining key roles in any project is critical to success. That is what the RACI Matrix seeks to clarify.
A key component of project success—what’s called a CSF, or critical success factor—is having a clear, documented, and well-understood approach to the roles that your team members hold within a project. When projects fail, it’s not always because the project itself was poorly planned. Often, failure occurs because there is a lack of clarity around roles and responsibilities.
Look at it this way; it’s all well and good to know what needs to be done—but who’s doing it? Making assumptions isn’t going to accomplish anything. The RACI matrix, however, does.
What is The RACI Matrix?
RACI is an acronym derived from the four key roles that participants have within a project:
- R: RESPONSIBLE – Who is responsible for each action item?
These are the people who do the work, complete the task, make the decision, and so on. Responsibility can be assigned to one person or a group.
- A: ACCOUNTABLE – Who is accountable?
This is who “owns” the task at hand, meaning they must sign off on the task as it completes. It is also their job to ensure that all related responsibilities within the task are assigned and that everything gets done. It is also the accountable person’s role to ensure the responsible ones have all the tools, resources, and access they need to get the job done.
- C: CONSULTED – Who needs to be consulted?
These are the people who might need to provide input before the task is considered complete. The consulted are active participants in the process and always in the loop.
- I: INFORMED – Who needs to be informed?
The “informed” is generally the person in charge of the project at a high level—company leadership or department heads are a couple of examples. They might not be active participants in the project, nor do they need to be consulted or partake in most decision-making processes, but they might need to know that it’s been done and receive progress updates along the way. The success of the project is usually down to them.
This framework is easily the most straightforward and best method to clarify roles and responsibilities within a project. It provides a black-and-white blueprint that helps stakeholders understand and visualize every aspect of every process, illuminating the way forward, uniting teams to a common goal, and significantly improving a project’s chance of success.
How to Create A RACI Matrix
If you could look back at any failed projects, you’ll probably find they have one thing in common, and that is no shared understanding of roles or any documentation to back it up. In the case of a stuck project, once these roles are illuminated, it’s almost always possible to get back on track as participants can suddenly visualize and deal with items that need to be resolved.
At Gate 39 Media, we use the RACI matrix as a tool in our projects. It has served us well, and we recommend that it be used by anyone managing projects.
You can create a RACI matrix in Excel, use a software tool, or even write it up on a whiteboard in the conference room.
Getting started with a tactile visual tool is a good idea. Once the details are filled in, you can use a project management productivity tool to connect your people to their tasks.
Seven Steps to Creating a RACI Matrix
Before you get started, it’s always a good idea to think about the outcomes you hope to achieve. As sub-headings to those deliverables, consider any challenges that could possibly come up. If you’ve had project management successes or failures in these areas in the past, be sure to anticipate and build contingencies into the process.
This is also the ideal time to get ahead of foreseeable issues and think about who the best person might be to take on specific tasks. Placing the right people in the right roles reduces unnecessary drama and ensures your challenges are adequately addressed.
- List all the tasks that need to get done to complete the project successfully. List each task on its own line in a vertical column to the left side of your chart.
- Name all stakeholders involved in the project and give them each a column of their own with their names at the top.
- Using the RACI letters, flesh out the grid with each person’s role within each task. Color code each of the four letters to make it easy to read and understand.
- Make sure each task has one person responsible for it.
- Ensure tasks have no more than one person accountable for them.
- Resolve any conflicts.
- Discuss with the team and gain consensus on every item. Resolve any concerns or ambiguities before the project gets underway.
Resolving Conflicts in the RACI Matrix
Once you have your first matrix iteration, you need to take steps to ensure it’s going to help and not hinder your efforts. If there are any ambiguities, they will be easy to see when it’s displayed visually.
Here are a few things to look for:
- Too many R’s under one name. If people have too much responsibility assigned to them, your matrix is clearly unbalanced, and you risk things not getting done. If this happens, redistribute some of the load. Too many hands on a single task can actually set you back rather than move you forward.
- No empty cells under one name. Is it necessary for one person to be involved in every single process? Can you change R’s to I’s or C’s?
- Too many C’s in general. Too many consults could hold up processes. Ask yourself whether these people really need to be consulted or if they can simply be informed.
- Consensus. Once you have your matrix mapped out, it’s vital to get buy-in from all your stakeholders. This is an opportunity to get their input on assigned roles and responsibilities and make necessary adjustments based on their concerns.
- Is anyone missing? When working with a large team (or a distributed team), it’s easy to overlook one or two people who would add value to the project. Have your management team look at your RACI matrix with an objective eye to make sure you haven’t forgotten anybody.
In summary, a RACI matrix is a responsibility assignment tool that helps define and document roles and responsibilities in a project. Knowing who is responsible, accountable, who needs to be consulted, and who must be kept informed during each step increases the chances that a project will succeed.
RACI reduces ambiguities and unpredictability from the start and at every stage of project completion. It helps stakeholders focus on the task at hand and providing leadership with the assurance they need to move forward with growth initiatives.
Ultimately, creating a functional RACI matrix requires finesse and an eye for balance. Accomplish this, and your projects are sure to succeed.
If you still have questions about the RACI matrix, project management, or need help implementing CRM or marketing technology in your organization, we’d love to help. Reach out today, and let’s start the conversation.
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