Team challenge 1: There is a new manager in a team who believes that everyone in the team is clear what the other team members’ responsibilities are and yet they aren’t. What should the team do? Team challenge 2: An email/request comes to a shared mailbox or distribution list, and there is confusion in the team who is responsible/who responds? What should be the best practice if there is no clear process in place for this? Team challenge 3: A multi-cultural team may have people who have low or high context preferences. It can lead to miscommunication at times. How can we be sure responsibilities are clear to everyone?
These are some of the challenges that training groups have shared with us. Aligning people and tasks becomes even more of a challenge if we add in virtual working, cross functional teams and the increasing pressure to be more agile and handle more diverse projects at the same time. In this post we will share a useful tool that can really help address these challenges.
The RACI matrix
We have used a tool with teams that helps cut through the complications of these challenges and bring more clarity to complex team setups. The RACI matrix is a simple and frequently used responsibility charting tool to clarify relationships for:
- Communication or actions required to deliver an acceptable product or service
- Functional roles or departmental positions (no specific individual staff members’ names)
- Participation expectations assigned to roles by decisions or actions
The tool assigns roles into 4 categories:
- Responsible – Those who do the work to achieve the task.
- Accountable – The one ultimately answerable for the correct completion of the deliverable or task, and the one who delegates the work to those responsible.
- Consulted – Those whose opinions are sought, typically subject matter experts; and with whom there is two-way communication.
- Informed – Those who are updated on progress, often only on completion of the task or deliverable; and with whom there is just one-way communication.
A practical example
Let’s look at a simple example to show how RACI works in practice. Imagine a (rather stereotypical) family. The task is to prepare and serve dinner. How does each family member take part in this task? Let’s say mum is responsible (R) and accountable (A) for the meal (A and R is often the same role). Mum can also delegate some of the responsibility, for example asking dad to prepare one element of the meal or the children to lay the table. There can only be one A, but there can be more than one R. Next, the family members need to be informed (I) when the meal will be ready and probably consulted (C) about the ingredients to check they will be able to eat it!
This simple non-business example makes it easy to see how RACI works and can also illustrate how things can go wrong when some of the roles are not defined or followed. For example:
- Mum and dad share responsibility for preparing the meal but they fail to coordinate when the different elements should be ready.
- Mum fails to consult the kids on the menu; when she serves the meal she remembers that her son is allergic to one of the ingredients.
- No one is responsible for laying the table and mum gets angry and stressed that she has to do it in addition to the cooking.
- The family is not informed when dinner will be ready and is out playing in the park when the meal is served.
How does RACI help us be more agile?
These kinds of misalignments and their results also happen in a business context. Let’s look at some common scenarios which teams often report to us during training, and how to address them using the RACI matrix:
|Use RACI to:
|Work is not getting done because people are not clear about individual responsibilities; some tasks have multiple people working on them, other tasks don’t get touched at all.
|Decide who is responsible and accountable for different tasks. Breaking up big tasks and delegating responsibilities for them can help. If you are facing this scenario in your team it usually means there are either too many, or not enough ‘R’ roles.
|Tasks and projects take a long time to complete because lots of different people give their input and there is a conflict between different views/approaches.
|Decide who really needs to be consulted in order for the task to be completed. Too many ‘C’ roles can lead to ‘paralysis by analysis’, slowing things down. This often happens in communications, for example when too many people are invited to meetings or copied into emails.
|We don’t have visibility on who is doing what and the status of tasks and when they are completed. Sometimes this leads us to duplicate tasks or miss important details.
|Decide who needs to be informed and consulted for each task. Not enough ‘C’ or ‘I’ roles can lead to poor communication and lack of visibility. If you ask a question and get the answer, “I don’t know, you could try person X” it could be a sign that these roles have not been assigned.
Tips for using the RACI matrix
By now you can probably see how implementing RACI properly can help prevent these problems and address the challenges we described at the start. Remember that RACI defines roles not people; in other words, people can have different roles in different tasks regardless of their job titles. Completing the matrix can also give you a quick overview to check that all roles have been assigned; to the correct people, and that there are not too many/too few roles.
Finally, RACI is flexible and can be easily customised by adding new role types that suit your organisation or projects. Click here [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Responsibility_assignment_matrix] and scroll down for a pretty comprehensive list of how to adapt RACI.
More advice and tips on aligning and communicating in teams