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A RACI chart, or RACI matrix, is a visual tool that helps teams keep track of roles and responsibilities throughout each stage of a project. For this reason, it is also sometimes called a roles and responsibilities chart.
The chart looks like a table with project stakeholders on one axis and project tasks or deliverables on the other. Each stakeholder is assigned a letter—R, A, C, or I—for each task, which describes their level of involvement with that task.
Read on to learn about the differences between the roles of each letter, or jump ahead to any section:
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Being assigned “R” means that you are the person responsible for completing this task or producing a deliverable. There can be more than one “responsible” person for a certain task, but try to keep it as limited as possible to avoid the problem of getting too many people involved and making things more complicated than necessary.
Being assigned “A” means you are accountable for ensuring the task is completed. It’s an important distinction from “responsible,” because the “accountable” person is not necessarily doing the work themselves. Rather than being responsible for executing the task, the accountable person needs to approve of the task before the work should be considered done.
There should only ever be one person assigned “A” for a given task. This is critical for eliminating confusion about who confirms that the task or step in the project is completed.
Another important note is that the project manager should not necessarily be assigned accountable for every task and deliverable in the project, even if they are ultimately accountable for the completion of the project as a whole.
When applicable, try to assign someone who is closer to the work as accountable for a certain task to take that off the project manager’s extensive to-do list. This may be the manager or supervisor of the person responsible for the task.
If you are assigned “C,” that means you will be consulted as the task is being completed. This includes giving feedback, answering questions, and providing assistance if there is a problem. In many cases, this person is a subject matter expert who will provide information to those who are responsible for the task.
The final letter that you can be assigned is “I” for informed, implying a one-way flow of communication where you will be informed of progress, blockers, and changes, but you will not provide input or assistance.
This role is for someone who doesn't need to be involved in a certain task, but its outcome can affect them, so they should be aware of what is happening as it might inform their own work.
The important distinction between “consulted” and “informed” is that the “consulted” person provides feedback and the “informed” person is only given updates.
This can eliminate some issues that occasionally arise where too many people try to give feedback at once, which can cause conflict, disagreement, or even just confusion and information overload for the “responsible” person.
At a high level, your chart or matrix helps improve communication and collaboration on your team. In this section, we'll explore 5 ways it does that.
The primary way a RACI chart helps projects run more efficiently and smoothly is by defining roles and responsibilities from the beginning. This helps prevent tension, miscommunication, and details from falling through the cracks later on.
It also increases stakeholder engagement by reducing confusion about who is responsible for what, so each person can just focus on completing their own work.
You’ve probably spent plenty of time in meetings that you really didn’t need to be a part of. With a RACI chart, you can make sure the right people are involved in the right ways, and that you’re communicating to the right people at the right time.
Not only will this reduce project members’ frustration, but it will also speed up approval and decision-making processes.
If you’re tackling a large project, you may need to set up a broader communications plan that includes lots of teammates in the “Informed” category. To keep everyone informed, learn how to make a stakeholder map >>
The RACI chart is a huge help to team members in understanding their role in the project and their responsibilities, and in turn, that leads to a decreased burden on the project manager by helping them delegate tasks more easily.
The project manager’s stress and risk of burnout is also reduced when they aren’t seen as the sole source of information and accountability for every aspect of the project.
Using a RACI matrix makes your process more scalable and allows you to expand more easily. Onboarding new employees and completing handoffs are much smoother when roles are clearly defined in writing.
It’s easier for someone new to pick up where someone else left off if they’re not confused about what they are supposed to be doing and who they’re supposed to be communicating with.
Have you ever worked on a project where plans have fallen through, deadlines have been missed, and deliverables weren’t produced, and then everyone starts pointing fingers?
If you have a RACI chart, it’s very clear to all stakeholders who is responsible for each task, which is a great deterrent for the conflict and tension that may arise when there’s a problem and no one can be certain whose responsibility it was in the first place.
Although a RACI chart is a very powerful and helpful tool, it is not necessary for every project and sometimes hurts more than it helps. For example, if a project team is small and tight-knit, and they already know and understand their roles well, a chart isn't necessary.
Similarly, it's not necessary if a process has already been established and everyone is comfortable in their roles and responsibilities. In fact, using one when it’s not called for can actually slow down the process and create blockers by creating unnecessary steps.
These are the situations where it is helpful to use a RACI matrix:
You may have a stakeholder map for your project to help with this step, but if not, just write out a list of every person who will be involved in the project in some way. This includes the team that will be working on the project as well as any additional stakeholders who need to know what’s going on.
These individuals will make up the X-axis of the chart. Sometimes project managers choose to use roles or job titles rather than names, which can help you more easily use the matrix on repeated processes regardless of who is assigned.
The next step is to make a list of all the tasks that will need to be completed. A PERT chart can be helpful to you when you’re making your list, if you’ve created one during the planning process.
Although a PERT chart isn’t very specific, you can use it as a baseline to expand your list and make sure you cover all the bases. The list of tasks will make up the Y-axis of the chart.
Now that you have an empty table, it’s time to fill it out by assigning a letter to each person for each task based on the level of involvement they need to have.
Remember to only assign one letter to each person for a given task, and although multiple people can be responsible, consulted, and informed, only one should ever be accountable for each task.
Since the RACI matrix is all about establishing clear expectations, make sure that all stakeholders are on board with their roles and responsibilities before finalizing the chart.
Meet with the team and go over it with them, and communicate with additional stakeholders such as organizational leadership as necessary, so all parties know and agree on what is expected of them and what they should expect of others.
This exercise, along with other activities like creating a team charter template, will help create a positive atmosphere for communication and collaboration among your team.
There are many ways to make a RACI chart, from a table on a Word document, to an Excel spreadsheet, to a Gliffy diagram. But the most important thing to remember is that the chart is only useful to you and your team if everyone has access to it at any time.
With Gliffy, it’s easy to do that. When you create your diagram, you can share it with a click and even embed it right alongside your documentation and other project information so it’s easily accessible.
You can update it anytime and those changes will automatically be reflected everywhere. When you use a diagramming tool like Gliffy, collaboration is easy and effective.
It’s also easy to start making your chart in Gliffy with our pre-built template—all you need to do is add in your own project details. You can customize it however you want and add as many people and tasks as you need.
Get started with a click and you’ll be on your way to better communication and collaboration for your next project. Plus, it’s free to start for 14 days.
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