EXECUTIVE TEAM ALIGNMENT
A special Build supplement in the November 2013 issue of Inc. magazine.
Even a thorough project plan can leave room for confusion about individual duties. A RACI model — or a visual map of everyone’s responsibilities — helps to prevent chaos from ensuing.
RACI stands for responsible, accountable, consulted, and informed. That’s four levels of “answerability.” A RACI model is a table that lists the members of a team and delineates their level of answerability for every aspect of a project, as shown in the sample chart above.
Creating a RACI model is relatively simple, but there are all sorts of pitfalls that first-timers can fall into. To avoid them, we recommend the article “How to Design a Successful RACI Project Plan” by IT management coach and consultant Bob Kantor (@bobkantor) in CIO magazine.
Kantor provides various tips for building a RACI model, including: Ensure that every task has at least one stakeholder who’s responsible for it and no more than one stakeholder accountable for it. Share, discuss, and agree to the model with your stakeholders at the start of a project.
He also lists nine potential conflicts or ambiguities that need to be resolved as you look across each row and down each column, such as:
1. Too many R’s: Does one stakeholder have too much of the project assigned to them?
2. No empty cells: Does one stakeholder need to be involved in so many of the activities? Can responsible be changed to consulted, or consulted changed to informed? That is, are there too many “cooks in this kitchen” to keep things moving? (If so, what does that say about the culture within which this project is being managed?)
3. Buy-in: Does each stakeholder agree to the role that he or she is being asked to play? (When agreement is achieved, include it in the project’s charter and documentation.)
In the comments on Kantor’s article, we found another useful tip, from consultant Maya Townsend (@mayapare): “RACI is most valuable when things are starting to go wrong and people need a concrete, structured way to talk about who’s responsible for what. At the beginning of a project, you can’t always anticipate what responsibilities will be fuzzy. In the heat of a project, you can, and RACI helps people talk about the fuzziness without blaming and identify the best way to move forward. Finally, RACI needs to be specific. I’ve seen generic RACI maps that list tasks like code, test, communicate. Worthless. A RACI like that could be used for any IT project. It’s important that people customize their RACI to the specific project.”
Does making a chart seem like spreadsheet hell? We have good news: “For anyone interested, I have [created] a very handy iPad app for creating RACI models called KnowMyTeam,” writes Andrew Reid, director of the U.K. consulting and software development firm Woovio, in his comment on Kantor’s article. If you’re looking for a case study of a RACI model in action, check out Middle Market Executive’s article “A Middle-Market Business Leader’s Guide to Continuous Improvement,” by Gerry Mendelbaum, a consultant with Camber Advisors, and Vincent Piccione, co-owner of Alfred Angelo, a midmarket maker of bridal apparel.