Managing complex projects can be overwhelming for even the most experienced project managers. Creating lists of tasks and deliverables, organizing timelines, and scheduling meetings are all part of ensuring your project goes off without a hitch. That said, there’s one key factor that will determine the overall success of any project: assigning clear roles and responsibilities. A RACI chart is a simple and effective way to do just that.
What is a RACI chart?
A RACI chart (also known as a RACI matrix, a RACI diagram, or a responsibility assignment matrix), is a tool, often in the form of a filled-out template or document, that outlines the roles and responsibilities of a project’s team members. It clearly outlines exactly what each person is in charge of so that there’s no confusion when deliverables are due. That’s why it’s usually used in project management.
What does RACI stand for?
The people responsible for actually doing the work in order to complete the tasks and project. Every project will have at least one person assigned as “Responsible,” but there can definitely be more. These might be graphic designers, engineers, UX Designers, copywriters, or any other team member who is completing the task.
While there may be a few Responsible team members, there can only be one Accountable person assigned to a task or deliverable. The Accountable person is usually the key stakeholder and has the ultimate deciding vote when it comes to approvals and moving forward with a task and project. This could be a project manager, someone like a creative director, or the individual who requested completion of the project initially.
Consulted parties provide input on tasks and deliverables. These could be subject matter experts or leaders within the company, of which there is two-way communication. For example, if you’re looking to write a step-by-step instruction manual for your company’s products, the Consulted party could be a product manager.
The Informed team member simply needs to be kept in the loop regarding the tasks and project. They don’t contribute directly to tasks or major decisions, but require informal updates on project progress.
What’s the difference between accountable and responsible?
At first glance, these two categories can seem pretty similar. After all, the two words can be used interchangeably depending on the context, and you’ll often find one in the other’s definition. But in a RACI chart, the differences between these two categories need a special mention. If you’re struggling to remember which is which, think of it this way:
- A CEO is accountable for how their business operates. They’re accountable for decisions made all the way down the hierarchy but they’re not responsible for the work that happens throughout the organization. They’re rarely the ones doing the hands-on work.
- A content marketer is responsible for creating content that brings awareness to the organization they’re a part of. That said, they’re not accountable for high-level marketing strategies and messaging. That’s usually decided by the head of marketing.
When filling out your RACI chart, remember the differences between these two roles when you’re trying to determine who’s responsible for a task versus who is accountable for it. Who is doing the hands-on work? Who’s accountable for decisions? Where does the buck stop?
When to use a RACI chart
We’ve all been on a project where it wasn’t clear who was in charge or what everyone’s contributions were supposed to be. The resulting confusion and wasted time is sure to derail any initiative. That’s when a project manager can really benefit from a RACI chart.
While you won’t want to use a RACI for everyday or general tasks — or if your team is small and roles are already very clearly defined — there are certain project management situations where this matrix is helpful. These include:
- Larger projects with multiple stakeholders and deliverables
- Projects where the decision-making process could potentially delay delivery of tasks (for example, if you’re working with notoriously busy stakeholders)
- When there is conflict or confusion about who owns what task
- You’re welcoming someone new onto a project and they need to understand their roles and responsibilities
- If there’s a lack of clarity regarding who has final say and sign-off on a task or project
- When a project workload distribution seems unfair and uneven
What are the benefits of a RACI chart?
HereHere are some key benefits a project manager should consider when using a RACI chart.
Clarifies roles and responsibilities
If you’ve ever left a meeting wondering who’s doing what, or what your responsibilities are, consider implementing RACI charts. They provide you with visibility into everyone’s responsibilities, including your own. This means people will know what they have to do and who to reach out to with questions on other aspects of the project.
Encourages accountability among team members
With a RACI chart, there’s no doubt about who is in charge of what. This creates opportunities for team members to feel accountable and totally responsible for their assigned tasks. There’s no micromanaging or constant checking in, as each individual’s roles are clearly outlined in the RACI matrix.
Ensures workloads are divided evenly
When you’re creating a RACI chart, it’s easy to see right away who might be overloaded with tasks and who has some room for more. Through the process of building your chart, you’re actually able to fix this misallocation of work right away — before it can impact your project.
Keeps approvals crystal clear
We’ve all been a part of projects that get held up by unclear approval processes. By assigning someone the role of Accountable, you make sure that the right person is ready to approve the project, and that all final decisions are left to this individual.
How to create a RACI chart
Now that you know what a RACI matrix is, and why it’s so beneficial to businesses, it’s time to learn how to create one of your own.
- Conduct a simple task audit and write down all the tasks and deliverables in the project plan. List these on the left column of your chart. For instance, a RACI chart for a new website design would include tasks like writing homepage copy, creating wireframes, testing links, and so on.
- Write the roles — and names — of each involved team member along the top row of your chart. For this same website project, you might have a copywriter, a developer, and a designer, for instance.
- Each cell in your chart will now represent an intersection between a team member and a task. Fill each of these with a responsibility value.
- Get alignment with team members and stakeholders. Before you proceed with your project, you should be sure that everyone knows what’s expected of them, and that stakeholders know who’s taking care of what.
Here’s what a RACI chart will look like after these steps.
Free RACI chart template and RACI chart example
To make things as easy as possible for you, we’ve created a simple blank RACI chart template, plus an example of how to fill one out.
RACI chart example
|Write homepage copy
|Create homepage wireframes
|Quality test links
|Insert copy into homepage template
|Homepage final approval
Click this link to access the template.
Best practices for using RACI charts in project management
Filling out a RACI chart is pretty simple. Once you’ve determined your tasks and who will be working on them, it’s just a matter of assigning the right responsibility in the right place. However, keep these simple rules in mind when building your RACI chart.
Every task has at least one R (Responsible) assigned to it
Whoever is assigned as the responsible person for a particular task is the person doing the actual work. If no one’s responsible for writing website copy, then that copy just won’t get written.
Make sure there are no more than one A (Accountable) stakeholders on each task
Think of the accountable person in a RACI chart as a mini-CEO for that task. They’re where the buck stops for that particular task. Sure, they might not be able to control how good website copy is, but if they’re accountable for its integration into a website design, they need to make sure it ends up in the right place.
Include a legend explaining the RACI acronym for everyone’s reference
Just because you’ve done your research and learned the acronym doesn’t mean everyone else has. Unless you want to explain it to everyone every time the chart comes up, keep a legend handy.
Share the RACI at the beginning of the project
This will limit conflict and confusion. The RACI chart is your vision for a project. If you want everyone to know what’s expected of them, you need to communicate that early and often.
Leave room for discussion and changes
Let your team know that your RACI chart doesn’t necessarily have to be set in stone, and that you welcome feedback and change requests. You can’t see or hear everything. By sharing your RACI chart early in your project’s lifetime, you’re getting access to feedback before the work starts. That means any potential adjustments can be made ahead of time.
Keep your RACI chart easily accessible
Where that is will depend on the project you’re running. Generally speaking, though, you should try keeping your RACI chart in the same project management software you’re using to run that project. If you’re not using a project management tool, just make sure your RACI chart is in the same place as your project’s tasks.
Ready to RACI?
If only every situation in life had something like a RACI chart to guide it. With the clear designation of roles and responsibilities, as well as the documentation to support these, a RACI helps establish consensus, streamline projects, and boost efficiency when it comes to everyone’s time and workloads.
Just need a few quick answers to your questions? Here they are.
What does RACI stand for?
Each letter in the “RACI” acronym in RACI chart stands for a specific role. Here’s the breakdown.
R for Responsible
The responsible person in a RACI chart is the one actually doing the work to bring a project or task to a close. More than one person can fit into this responsibility.
A for Accountable
Only a single person can be labeled as “accountable” in a RACI chart. They are an important stakeholder and usually have the last say in any decision. No matter what happens in a project, they’re ultimately accountable for its result — since they’ll likely be the ones answering to executives or other higher-ups.
C for Consulted
Those who are listed as “consulted” in a RACI chart will provide input on specific tasks and deliverables. Quite often, they’re a subject matter expert with knowledge or a skill that’s uniquely valuable.
I for Informed
Multiple people might fit within the “informed” slot of a RACI chart. They simply need to be kept updated as a project or tasks progresses, usually because it touches their role in some way or they’re managing people involved in the project.
When should you use a RACI chart?
Usually, a project manager — or someone acting in their stead — will draft a RACI chart at the beginning of a project, before any work has taken place. That’s because RACI charts outline the roles and responsibilities of everyone involved, so hammering this out early is crucial for project success.
How do you use a RACI matrix?
The process of creating a RACI matrix usually involves a single person doing most of the work while consulting the people who’ll be working on a project. Project managers are often responsible for creating a RACI matrix, but it’s simple enough that anyone can do it.
First, lay out a rough approximation of who you think will fit each role in the project. Some roles are more obvious than others.
Once you’ve created a draft of your chart, consult the people who will be working on the project to get their feedback. This can be done in a meeting or asynchronously.
After a few rounds of feedback, you should have a finished RACI matrix in hand. Make sure that it’s publically available — the project management tool you’re using to run your project is a great place to keep it.
From there, just refer to the RACI matrix whenever you need clarity on what role each person is playing in a project. If you’re creating a progress report, for example, you’ll want to make it available to everyone in the “informed” role.
Can you have more than one responsible person in a RACI chart?
Absolutely, and in fact you’ll usually want more than a single responsible party — otherwise your RACI chart is essentially communicating that a project’s work will be done by just one person. When filling out the responsible role in your RACI chart, look at your project team and include everyone who’ll be working on actually closing project tasks.
Should a RACI chart be used for Agile projects?
There are no elements of Agile projects that are incompatible with RACI charts — in fact, using a RACI chart is a great way to introduce Agile methods to teams that aren’t used to them.
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