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Using RACI as a tool for Accountability and Expectation Setting

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Mikey Traftons template document for using RACI as a tool for accountability and expectation setting at work.

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Using RACI as a tool for Accountability and Expectation Setting

  1. 1. Using RACI as a Tool for Expectation Setting Michael Trafton Fire Ant Software | www.fireantsoftware.com Page 1 of 5 Introduction Who is on the hook for success? Several years ago, my company’s consensus building and teamwork-oriented culture was getting in the way of getting things done. Teamwork is a true core value at Blue Fish, and it’s part of the reason we have such a great place to work – everyone pitches in and helps each other. But in a team-oriented culture, there can be a lot of dropped balls if the team isn’t managed well. • People would often leave a meeting not knowing what was needed of them or assuming someone else owned a task. • Inexperienced team members would want to “step up” and prove themselves by taking on new tasks or aspects of a project that they had not owned previously. This often led to bad results when they didn’t realize that another person knew some important piece of the puzzle that wasn’t being considered. • The entire team would attend every meeting and would complain about how much time they were wasting in useless meetings. But if you didn’t invite someone to a meeting, he would complain that his expertise was not being valued. We didn’t want to kill our awesome team spirit, but we needed a better way to set expectations and a easier way to divide the work among the team members. When we found RACI, it made a world of difference. What is RACI? RACI is a tool for communicating each person’s level of involvement in a project. A RACI conversation is the best way I know of to make sure everyone understands what is expected of him or her. Each letter in RACI stands for a different role on a project or initiative. Everyone knows what is expected with a given role, and they act accordingly. RACI is pronounced “ray-see”. I always thought it should be ARCI “ar-see”, since that better represents the hierarchy of ownership, but no one asked me when they invented this thing. For the purpose of today’s discussion, I’m going to put the roles in the order that makes the most sense to me. A – Accountable The “Accountable” person has overall ownership of the project – she is on the hook for achieving the desired outcome. The accountable person drives the project to completion and orchestrates others to ensure a positive end result. She does whatever it takes to get the job done. Because she is on the hook for the result, she can use whatever methods she believes will work - she gets to create the plan and change the plan as needed. On larger projects, the “A” might be a project manager, but you can also “have the A” for making sure the client gets picked up at the airport. It doesn’t matter how you do it – you just have to make sure it gets done. The accountable person’s neck is the one to grab if things don’t turn out the way you had hoped. It’s also the person that gets the biggest bonus if things turn out great. Because accountability is all about results, it takes a certain level of commitment and self-confidence to
  2. 2. Using RACI as a Tool for Expectation Setting Michael Trafton Fire Ant Software| www.fireantsoftware.com Page 2 of 5 Who is responsible for making things happen and completing tasks? Who is required to review, provide input, or consent? Influence must be allowed before a decision is taken. be accountable for the success of a project. There can be no excuses - if the desired results were not achieved, it’s on you. The right attitude for someone assigned as accountable is this: come hell or high water, I’m going to get the result that is needed. There can be only one accountable person on a project. The whole purpose of the RACI tool is clarify expectations, and if there is more than one accountable person, there can always be finger pointing if something goes wrong. As a leader/manager, you have to be willing to let the accountable person own the project. You can’t be second guessing every decision she makes, or she has the right to give the A back to you and say, “It seems like you want to be accountable for this project.” If you want someone to own the result, you have to let her run the project the way that she believes will produce that result. Here’s an Example: The company is releasing a new product, and as part of the rollout, the web site needs to be updated. Bob, the VP of Marketing is accountable for making sure this happens on time. He’s probably not going to be writing any HTML, but he’s darn sure going to make sure that someone else does it. R – Responsible To be assigned as “Responsible” means that you own a particular set of tasks on the project. You are on the hook for successfully completing you tasks, but you are not necessarily on the hook for how those tasks fit in with the bigger picture. It’s common on a project to have multiple people that are “Rs” - different people that are responsible for different aspects of the initiative. It’s also possible to have multiple people responsible for the same aspect of a project, collaborating with each other. This is a big difference between As and Rs. While there can be several Rs, there can be only one A. For example, to get our web site updated, several web pages need to be created. Sam might be responsible for writing the copy for these pages, and Sally might be responsible for putting them into the content management system. Fred and Sue might both be responsible for proofreading it for typos. Bob, the VP of Marketing who has the A for the project, would typically be the person to decide how the work is divided up between Sam, Sally, Fred, and Sue. Or he could delegate that decision to the team and let them divvy up the work themselves. C – Consulted If someone is tagged as needing to be “Consulted”, it means his or her input must be sought out and provided before the task can be completed. Ideally, it would be sought out before the task begins. It’s the Responsible person’s job to make sure they talk to the consulted before going forward. It’s likely that a C would be consulted only on a certain aspect of the project. In this way, a C is similar to an R. The Cs have some area of expertise, and the goal is to let them contribute that expertise in the most efficient manner possible. They don’t need to attend every status meeting – they only need to be
  3. 3. Using RACI as a Tool for Expectation Setting Michael Trafton Fire Ant Software| www.fireantsoftware.com Page 3 of 5 Who is informed of the activities, for their information? pulled into the relevant conversations. I typically see that those who are Responsible are the “producers” – they are using creative energy or manual labor to create something. The Consulted are more often risk mitigators – they are checking to make sure nothing is overlooked. If you are having trouble determining who should be consulted, ask yourself what could go wrong, and who could help prevent that by reviewing a deliverable or providing some insight. Those are good candidates to be assigned a C role. One thing that can slow down a project is having too many people be consulted. In some cases, people will ask to be consulted when, frankly, their opinion is not critical to the success of the project. The culture in some organizations requires buy-in from everyone, but if you can avoid this, it will speed things up tremendously. TIP – As a CEO or Owner, one of the easiest ways to lighten your workload is to move from being an A to a C. Doing this allows you to provide oversight and contribute expertise without having to supervise every aspect of the project. Example: The general counsel needs to be consulted to make sure that the language our web pages doesn’t get us into trouble. The VP of Marketing needs to be consulted to make sure we are not violating any brand standards. The product manager needs to be consulted to make sure we are highlighting the most important features and benefits. I – Informed Someone tagged as “Informed” needs to be kept in the loop from time to time, but their input is not required before proceeding. The goal here is to let them provide input if they think they need to, but the project is not going to be held up waiting for them to do so. At Blue Fish, we invite the Informed as optional to project meetings, send them status reports, and copy them on any high-level communications. But we avoid sending them detailed communications that they don’t care about. A good rule of thumb for the informed is “Silence is Consent”. If the person’s opinion was critical, he should have been Consulted. Cascading RACIs Earlier, I said that there can only be one person accountable for the desired outcome. That’s true. But sometimes, a project is too big for one person to own by herself. In these cases, it’s entirely appropriate to divide the project into sub-projects, each with their own RACI. In fact, whenever someone has an R for a particular task, they can look at it as if they have the A for that task. For example, at Blue Fish, we like to say that our projects are led by a three-headed monster. The project manager is accountable for the overall success of the project (she has the A for achieving the project success criteria as defined by our clients). The project’s solution architect is accountable for
  4. 4. Using RACI as a Tool for Expectation Setting Michael Trafton Fire Ant Software| www.fireantsoftware.com Page 4 of 5 “Building the Right Thing” – he has the A for understanding the requirements and conceptualizing the solution. The technical lead is accountable for “Building the Thing Right” – he has the A for delivering a high quality solution. Each person might delegate work to other team members that would be Responsible for some aspect of the project. The RACI Matrix At Blue Fish, we’ve been using RACI for long enough that we can have a very short, high-level conversation to assign roles on a project, and everyone typically knows what is expected of them. Sometimes, a project gets overly complex, and a high-level conversation isn’t enough to get everyone on the same page. When this happens, we use a RACI Matrix, a document that explains the roles and responsibilities in a finer level of detail. A RACI Matrix lists activities or topic areas on the left and team members across the top, with a RACI letter in each cell to clarify a given team member’s role on a particular topic. Here’s a RACI Matrix we used on a project a few years ago:
  5. 5. Using RACI as a Tool for Expectation Setting Michael Trafton

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