If you walk into the headquarters of a number of well-known leading UK companies and said “RACI Matrix” you would receive murmurs of acknowledgment, yet many in the project management field have never come across this simple acronym.

Projects should be characterised by a planning phase before the “doing”.  Let’s plan what we are going to do rather than jump straight in.  It’s often said that every day spend planning is ten days saved in implementation.  I’m not sure of the accuracy of this rule of thumb given all different project types but certainly agree with the sentiment.  So, one of the key stones of good planning is to break the scope of work down into deliverables and break these further into tasks and subtasks.  Congratulations, we now have a great project plan!

The next key stone is to ensure there is clarity on who is doing what.  It’s no good having a great plan if everyone is not clear on their roles and responsibilities.  Miscommunication and misaligned expectations are the foundation for many failed projects!

So to combat any potential lack of understanding we can turn to the RACI Matrix.  At a basic level, and appropriate for smaller projects perhaps involving a few people, we might keep things as simple as possible and just add an individual’s name against each deliverable or task.  Now there is clarity on who is doing what.  Remember, if a task, action, issue, risk or change does not have an owner and a deadline then expect failure.

If we want to get more sophisticated we can build on just simply identifying the owner, or the person responsible for completing the work.  We can also identify those who should be consulted about a piece of work (often the forgotten end user) or informed about a piece of work being undertaken.

So a RACI Matrix has a column of deliverables or work with a list of team members running along the top row.  The relationship each person has with each deliverable is then clearly marked as R, A, C or I as the example below shows:

In our project world the Project Manager is typically given the A – they are accountable for making sure the project progresses on track even though others might be doing the work.  Therefore only the Project Manager should have any A’s.  They might also do the work themselves so in some situations will also have the R.  In these situations they are wearing two hats, having oversight of the project as Project Manager but also doing the work themselves….welcome to reality!

Others may have no direct involvement so can be left blank against specific deliverables.  This then leaves us with Consult and Inform.  Which one you choose (if either, they are not compulsory) depends on the amount of communication.  Consult involves two way communication; I ask your opinion.  Inform is just one-way; I tell you something.

RACI is the classic example of a Responsibility Assignment Matrix (RAM).  There are many variations on this theme.  Personally I use CAR:

Communicate: A catch all for both consult and inform to identify anyone who should be communicated with regarding a deliverable

Assist: often work is not undertaken by just one team member but they might be assisted by others.  This clarifies the role of other team members as assisting with the deliverable, but not being the named individual who has overall responsibility

Responsible: just as in RACI above, this is the person doing the work.

The Project Manager should always be Accountable so I don’t see a need to highlight this is my CAR RAM!  So the next time you are involved in a shared piece of work, use this technique to ensure there is clarity on who is doing what…it’s another step the ladder of project success!

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