Many organizations are familiar with the general concept of RACI, but they can’t put a finger on exactly how it’s used—so here’s a simple RACI definition:
In short, RACI helps organizations prioritize team members’ actions, so everyone knows precisely what they’re responsible for.
Below we'll break down the RACI acronym and give you an example of how it works in practice:
Who is responsible for the work on a particular element of the project or process?
Consider a fast food company with a drive-through window. When considering all of the processes of the restaurant, you will need to identify one person or multiple people responsible for serving food items through the drive through. These employees will be assigned as “Rs”.
Who is accountable for the process or project working well?
If an operational issue with the drive-through arises, it isn’t the job of the employee sitting at the drive-through window to fix this issue—it’s the responsibility of someone higher up the ladder who likely helped create the process. (In this example, this may be a manager.) The individual accountable for this operational issue has ultimate authority over the project—so, as a best practice, there should only be one “A” assigned to a given project or process.
Who needs to provide support in order for a project or process to be successful?
As noted, assigning “S” roles is optional. If you choose to do so in your organization, these individuals can be from various departments; they are necessary for certain elements of a process or project. For example, the drive-through model might need support from the financial department to ensure the cash register is stocked with the right bill denominations and coins at the beginning of the day.
Who needs to be consulted if there is a problem with this process?
When changes need to be made to a project or process, do you know who to consult to resolve the issue (and not make it worse)? In our hypothetical drive-through restaurant, a “C” might be someone who is in the Health and Safety department who can explain how long food can sit out before it has to be thrown away.
Who must stay informed about a project if a change has been made?
If any changes are made during a project or process, the “Is” need to be informed. These individuals don’t necessarily provide feedback, but they do have to stay up-to-date with developments throughout the process lifecycle. For example, the training department needs to know if any changes are made so they can update the documentation and processes for the next shift or the next restaurant.
When you define which category of the RACI model each employee fits into, you’ll reduce the amount of confusion associated with typical projects and processes. This, in turn, helps employees feel less stressed and more engaged in their roles, as they know precisely what they are responsible for and what they don’t need to worry about.
Once you know which employees are assigned to each part of the RACI model, you’ll be able to ensure employees in every category get the right kind of training. Training is a waste of time unless employees are learning things that will add value to your business.
If an employee isn’t sure how they should escalate a problem—or whether they should just try to fix it themselves—it creates frustration. By assigning RACI roles, every employee knows precisely who to speak with about a potential process change or hang-up, thus alleviating frustration with management.
How many meetings have you attended where you wondered, “Why am I here?” Unfortunately, this happens all too often. But with the RACI model, you’ll know exactly who needs an invitation to a particular meeting based on their roles in a particular project or process, saving the time of those who simply don’t need to be there.
The RACI model takes your organizational strategy down to the individual level, so every employee knows what they need to be doing to contribute to the company’s success. Additionally, if you decide to adjust your strategy, you can adjust your RACI model accordingly so everyone in the company is refocused and headed in the same direction.
Implementing the RACI model in your organization can lead to more successful projects and processes—but it will only be effective when you take it from hypothetical to practical. The primary method used to do this is with a RACI matrix (also called an “assigned responsibility matrix”).
There are hundreds of different ways you can create a RACI matrix, (just try searching the term on Google images to see them all!). Most typically, RACI models are created using a spreadsheet tool like Excel. Various roles or departments are listed horizontally, and the key projects (sometimes followed by milestones underneath) are listed vertically. Then, you’ll fill in each box in the grid with an R, A, C, or I.
The format you use for your RACI matrix template isn’t hugely important, but ensuring that you complete the following three steps is:
First, you’ll need to identify five to seven key projects that are linked to your strategic objectives. For example, let’s say one of your projects is to implement new customer relationship management software. For each project, you’ve probably have three to five milestones (or key tasks); for our hypothetical CRM project, the associated milestones may be:
Once you’ve gone through all 5-7 key projects, you’ll end up with about 35 items that need to have clear responsibility.
Based on this project, you’d then assign responsibility using the RACI model:
Working from our previous example, your meetings should be attended by all the individuals identified as part of the RACI matrix for implementing the new software. (The “informed” people might only need to attend one of these meetings, but everyone else should be involved in multiple meetings). It’s likely they’ll have to meet on a regular basis to ensure that the group is staying on track. These individuals will also work together to create an appropriate update for your monthly strategy review meetings.
RACI is applicable to processes as well as projects, and the steps you would take to apply it are nearly identical (e.g. assigning out roles and ensuring stakeholders are meeting regularly). If you have a process improvement that needs to take place—like updating a 10-step process for onboarding a new customer—you may need to assign RACI accountability for each of those steps. If you are redesigning these steps, you’ll start with the project as a whole. This depends largely on the importance and depth of the process and should be handled on a case-by-case basis.
First: RACI should only be used for key strategic projects and processes, those that are critical to how your business operates or are undergoing some kind of change.
Overusing the RACI model could become overwhelming. You likely have a process (defined, or simply embedded in your organization’s culture) for virtually everything—from departmental procedures to cleaning the employee break room. Implementing the RACI model for something as trivial as the employee break room cleaning process is simply unnecessary. Apply RACI only with your high-value projects and processes and, if necessary, work down from there.
Our second caution is simply a truth you you won’t read about in many places:
Luckily, these issues can be circumvented by using an all-in-one reporting tool. In the same system, you can pull in data from multiple sources and align individuals to all of your projects and processes in a painless, consistent way.
We’ve found that the majority of businesses who struggle with the RACI model are complicating the process. One trick to combat this is to give yourself a limited window by which to integrate it. This helps you reduce all factors to those that are most critical and keep it simple. And if you have any questions along the way, we’re more than happy to help! Special thanks to Brett Knowles, Chief Executive Office at Hirebook, for his insight on this topic.