It’s not what you think. It’s a framework for understanding the relationship between who you communicate with, the role they have, and the aspects of a project. The RACI name comes from the roles that someone can have: responsible, accountable, consulted, or informed. It’s typically a grid, with the columns as the people and the aspects of the projects as the rows. The intersection contains a single letter that represents the role (or roles) the person has.
The columns of a RACI chart are the people that you’re interacting with. Sometimes, this may be a specific person’s name, but in most of the cases, it’s likely that the columns will be labeled with a small group of people. For instance, you might have a column named “engineers” and another named “marketing.”
Projects of any scope and scale are not one single thing to be done. There are always steps in the process or parts of the deliverable that must be done. The aspects that form the rows of a RACI chart are a meaningful way to break the overall project into smaller parts. While in many cases, the way that you break down the RACI chart will match the work breakdown structure of the project, it may be that the way you need to think about responsibility, accountability, consultation, and informing does not directly match the work breakdown structure.
What’s powerful about the RACI chart is the capacity to communicate the role of the person or group for an aspect of the project. Let me briefly summarize each of the roles – slightly out of order from the acronym to make it more understandable. They are:
- Accountable – This is the person who will ultimately be held accountable for whether the aspect of the project is successful or not. Said differently, if this goes spectacularly wrong, who is at risk of being fired or demoted? Generally, this role can only be used once for a row, and it’s always assigned to a person and not a group.
- Responsible – The responsible person or group are the ones doing the work. They may or may not be held accountable, but someone must do the work, so they’re identified as responsible. There are generally very few responsible parties for a given aspect. As with accountability, a single responsible party is ideal.
- Consulted – The consulted group are neither accountable nor responsible but are important to the decision-making process. Their input is needed even if they don’t have the final say. It’s common to have several people consulted on an aspect.
- Informed – Those who are informed are being made aware of progress on an aspect of the project, but they are not being given the opportunity to directly provide input on the item. Even more people are typically informed but not consulted.
- None – If the intersection between person and aspect is left blank, then there is no communication about the item to the person or group for that aspect of the project. Many of the intersections between people will remain blank.
RACI charts represent the understanding of the project team about everyone’s role. It helps those who are being informed to realize that they’re not going to be consulted for input on an aspect. This can help reduce misunderstandings that would typically occur later in the project and create hurt feelings.
While it may be frustrating to address the concerns about who should be accountable, responsible, consulted, and informed up front, the down-stream savings are well worth the effort.
RACI documents tend to be evolving documents in any project – including change projects. They start with what is known, and additional detail is added as new stakeholders are added to the people columns and new aspects are added to the rows.