One of the common problems with virtual teams, and all teams in general, is figuring out the roles and responsibilities of each team member. Who does the work? Without knowing the answer to this question, project schedules can slip, communication can break down, and conflicts can rise.
RACI (sometimes referred to as a Responsibility Assignment Matrix) is a simple tool to describe the various roles participating in a project or process. It helps clarify roles and responsibilities while identifying gaps, duplication and areas of confusion. Ultimately, it can contribute to project effectiveness or efficiency and provide the basis for communication plans, stakeholder management, and change management plans.
Step 1: Determine the tasks, activities, or decisions. Write these down the left-hand side of the matrix. Avoid trivial or generic activities (e.g., “attend meetings”). Each activity or decision should begin with a good action verb: Evaluate, Record, Schedule, Write, Operate, Plan, Update, Monitor, Prepare, Collect, Develop, Inspect, Train, etc.
Step 2: List the team roles. Write these across the top of the matrix. Roles can be individuals, groups, or entire departments and it is okay to include people outside the department or stakeholders if appropriate.
Step 3. Develop the RACI matrix. Go across each row and determine if the role (listed at top) is Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, or Informed for the identified task or activity. Here are the quick definitions:
Responsible: this person or group is entrusted to complete the task. They are the “doers” of the work. There can be several individuals that are assigned as Responsible to any given task. However, note that those responsible are not the final arbiter of decisions (that’s next…)
Accountable: only one person can ultimately be accountable for the results of the task/activity. The buck stops with the person assigned as Accountable (note that it is better to have a person and not a group assigned as Accountable). This person has agreed upon decision making power.
Consulted: This person or group needs to be solicited for feedback PRIOR to a final decision being made and they are likely to be directly impacted by that decision. Two-way communication is expected with those Consulted on major issues or concerns that need to be addressed before moving ahead. There can be multiple “C”s for any given task and they can represent executives, peers, subject matter experts, etc.
Informed: This is the group or person to be informed of conclusions or decisions in the process (“kept in the loop”). Unlike those Consulted, only one-way communication is needed with “I”s. They need updates on progress or decisions, but they do not need to be formally consulted, nor do they contribute directly to the task or decision.
Step 4: Review and conduct a horizontal and vertical analysis. First, go across each row. Are you sure you only have one person assigned as Accountable? Do you have anyone assigned as Accountable? Do you have too few people listed as Responsible (not enough people to do the work) or too many (too many cooks in the kitchen)? Are there too many people assigned as Consulted or Informed? Next, go down through each role. Is that person or group assigned with too many R’s or A’s (indicating that they will be over-utilized)? Is the column completely blank with nothing assigned (why are they there)?
Remember that the RACI is living document and should be kept up to date or revised throughout the life of the team. Keeping in mind that most people don’t like ambiguity or like being left in the dark, this RACI matrix is tough to beat.