When I work with clients on managing changes to their processes and cultures, I more often than not run into some of the same issues over and over again. One of those is issues has to do with the lack of clarity they create around roles.

Even when people are aligned around a goal or outcome, it can become challenging to ensure that people use their efforts in the most productive and efficient way. How many of you have been involved in an effort where it is unclear who is actually responsible for each of the steps along the way?

Sometimes no one feels responsible for a step. Just as challenging, sometimes too many people are attempting to do the same work and stepping on each other’s toes. As I used to hear growing up, there is such a thing as having “too many cooks in the kitchen.”

While these situations happen frequently at work, they happen just as often outside of the office. It seems that these are natural human issues that pop up whenever more than one person is involved in something.

Real Life Example

My wife and I are members of a volunteer-run organization that does community work on a local and global level. Rotary International has millions of people around the world, but our local Rotary Club is not a large group. It is filled with a small number of talented people who are successful in their own right. Most have their own small businesses or have led organizations in the past. Who does what on the projects and processes (e.g. roles), can be a common challenge that comes up when you have a lot of talented people in the room.

The issue we struggled with at my Rotary Club, like many of the clients when I arrive, is creating clarity around the roles.

I have served on projects where everyone, or no one, seemed to truly be in charge. It’s a frustrating experience. In many instances, I found myself contributing to the lack of clarity and flurry of activity.

As a consultant, I have helped clients work through their issues using simple project management tools. One tool that I’d like to cover today is the RACI model. RACI (Responsible, Accountable, Consulted and Informed) outlines four potential roles that people can have in a project, process or change initiative. Taking a little time to clarify the roles can greatly improve the chances for success with your initiatives.

Why Use a RACI Chart?

An easy to create tool that can provide huge benefits to a group that has some work to do. With a RACI template, you can:

  • Set clear expectations for everyone on the team
  • Avoid having everyone involved in every discussion and decision in the project
  • Avoid having one person responsible for every part of the project
  • Streamline the communication and updates throughout the life of the project

RACI Definitions

RACI captures who owns each role and who is responsible for the deliverables of a project or process. Here are some general definitions of each role:

  • Responsible – The Person who is doing the task
    • This person is responsible for getting the work done or making the decision. Try to minimize the amount of people in this category for each step.
  • Accountable – The person who owns the task
    • The person with the responsibility of the overall completion. They may not be doing the work, but they are responsible for ensuring it got completed. Should be just a single person.
  • Consulted – This person is actively assisting in the task
    • This person is actively engaged and will provide information to inform decisions needed to complete the task.
  • Informed – This person will be kept aware of the task
    • Updated on progress and decisions, these people can be less involved in the planning and decisions, though they may be affected by the outcomes of the work.

How Do You Build a RACI Chart

Building a RACI Chart for your needs follows a simple five step process. It can be easily built in Excel and can be a useful tool throughout your work.

  1. Identify the people who will have roles in the project
    1. These are normally listed across the top of your chart
  2. Identify the tasks or deliverables for your project or process
    1. The major tasks/deliverables are listed down the left hand side of the chart
  3. Assign the RACI roles for each deliverable or task
  4. Get agreement from others
    1. It is important to get agreement from the work group to the roles so that there is a common understanding of the roles throughout the project
    2. Once the team has a plan, check with key project stakeholders to ensure there is support
  5. Utilize the RACI chart throughout the length of the project
    1. Align responsibilities as you progress through the key tasks
    2. Confirm accuracy of initial RACI over time to see if things have changed
    3. Use it to conduct an after-action review periodically and at the conclusion of the project

Here is a link to a sample RACI chart template along with an example I created for a family move.

RACI is a flexible tool and you can easily make modifications to the definitions of RACI to best meet their individual needs of your group. A tip: If you make modifications to the definitions, make sure that the people using your chart are clear on those definitions.

For my local Rotary Club

I made some modifications to the definitions to better meet the needs of the club. We were struggling with efficiency and desperately needed some support to get us moving faster in our quest to serve others.

I wanted to clearly identify only one leader for each initiative and ensure that where needed budgets were protected to allow us to meet as many needs as possible.

Some of our projects have a larger financial impact for the club, so I used the “A”to capture where there was a financial impact for our club. Since only some of our projects during the year fit this criteria, only some of the rows include an “A”. I wanted to have one person responsible for each project so I made only one “R”in each row. The “C”was used to identify people who had signed up to work on those projects alongside the responsible party organizing the project. I used the “I”for other interested members of the club who hoped to help, but could not yet commit to individual activities.

Rotary RACI Chart Example

Above is a sample version of a RACI Chart for my local Rotary. It has been a useful tool to help us determine, communicate and coordinate on the roles for our projects and will continue to serve us in meeting needs in our local community and around the world.

I hope that you find this a helpful tool in your projects and look forward to hearing about your success in applying a bit of project management to the work of your teams.

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Evans Kerrigan

Evans Kerrigan works tirelessly in both corporate and public sectors as a dynamic business consultant, presenter, and coach. With over 30 years of experience working with multi-national organizations such as Cisco, Sun Blue Cross Blue Shield, BP, State of Arizona and King County Washington, Evans has been at the forefront of change management--building healthy organizations and creating great places to work. His contributions to these organizations have been credited with increasing employee engagement scores, dramatic reductions in costs and improvement in efficiencies and revenue, resulting in improved operational excellence.