In my career I have participated in numerous projects, both small and large. In most of these projects, the project leader has used a project plan, critical path, or at least a list of key deliverables with an indication of who would be doing what by when.
To improve my own ability to lead larger cross-functional initiatives, I've also taken project management courses and experimented with many different project management techniques and tools.
Despite all this experience and training, I did not come across one of the most simple and useful project management tools until my leader casually mentioned it a few years ago. The tool is a RACI matrix.
This tool is not something you have to buy or license. You can make your own in a spreadsheet or download a readymade template from Microsoft. It's a simple organizational tool that will help you take the management of your projects to the next level without adding additional complexity.
This example of a RACI matrix is adapted from a free Excel template downloaded from Microsoft. You can also make your own in a spreadsheet or table.
What is a RACI Matrix?
A RACI is a responsibility chart that identifies the level of involvement that team members will have with key project tasks. The types of responsibility are broken down in this way:
Responsible – The person who will do the actual work involved in the task
Accountable – Those who will approve the work involved in the task
Consulted – Anyone who needs to provide input on the task, particularly subject matter experts
Informed – Anyone who needs to be told about the task, but does not need to provide input
Using a RACI Matrix
To create a RACI matrix:
- Identify all the significant tasks that are part of a project.
- List these tasks in rows in a spreadsheet or table.
- Identify all the significant roles involved in the project.
- List these roles in the columns of a spreadsheet or table.
- For each task, identify who is ACCOUNTABLE. This is the person who will sign off on the work, indicating that is has been completed appropriately. Place an "A" at the intersection of the task and the role of the accountable person.
- For each task, identify who is RESPONSIBLE. This is the person who will do the work. Place an "R" at the intersection of the task and the role for the responsible person.
- For each task, determine who should be CONSULTED about the deliverable. Include anyone who needs to provide input or anyone who is a subject matter expert who can help the responsible person complete the task. Place a "C" at the intersection of the task and the role(s) that need to be consulted.
- Finally, for each deliverable, determine who should be INFORMED. These are roles that need to know about the completion of the work, but do not need to provide input. Place an "I" at the intersection of the deliverable and the role(s) that need to be informed.
- Only identify one responsible person or you will end up with lack of ownership and clarity around how the task will be accomplished and who will be doing the work. If you find it difficult to indicate only one "R", get more details around the deliverable. Consider breaking the task into subtasks where the ownership of the work is clearer.
- If you find it difficult to identify who should be responsible, consulted, or informed for a particular task, ask the person accountable for the task to designate someone.
- The same role can be both responsible and accountable, especially for smaller tasks.
- You must designate someone who is responsible and accountable - do not leave these responsibilities blank or the task will not be completed.
- You can leave the consulted and informed spaces blank if no one else needs to provide input or be told about the task.
Once the RACI chart is complete, all stakeholders should review the chart and agree to the allocation of tasks before the project commences. Follow these steps and you will experience a smoother project with fewer bottlenecks and less conflict over overlapping areas of responsibility.
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Benefits of a RACI Matrix
Sometimes the more challenging aspects of a project involve the relationships between the project team members rather than the actual tasks. Lack of clarity around roles can derail projects resulting in conflict, delays, and non-completion of key deliverables.
Using a RACI matrix ensures that:
- Everyone works at the right level of detail and time commitment for a particular task. For example, if a "micro-managing" leader who tends to get drawn into the details is listed as accountable for a certain task, it is easier to create some space for others to be responsible and do the actual work.
- Those who need to be consulted for their opinion are not left out.
- Those who only need to be informed about a task do not waste their time participating in unnecessary meetings and receiving emails for which they have no required action.
- There is less duplication of work as everyone knows where they should be focusing their efforts.
- The overall flow of work in the project is streamlined and more efficient.
Taking the time to create a RACI matrix will help you deliver your project on time, on budget, and to the level of quality that you desire.