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How to use a RACI chart

RACI — which stands for Respon­si­ble, Account­able, Con­sult­ed, and Informed — is an indis­pens­able tool for deter­min­ing the who’s who on your projects

Ever drop the ball on a client or team­mate because of mis­com­mu­ni­ca­tion? Have a CEO come out of nowhere and swoop n’ poop on your project at the last minute? Had to push out a dead­line because the right voic­es weren’t includ­ed at the right times? As much as we try to use our com­mu­ni­ca­tion pow­ers for good, most of us have found our­selves oppo­site a cranky stake­hold­er we for­got to inform about that dropped fea­ture or pushed dead­line. It’s a real shark bite to the spleen when it happens.

With so many mov­ing parts, it’s easy to lose track of who needs to know what. A RACI chart can help. 

RACI (pro­nounced ray-see) stands for Respon­si­ble, Account­able, Con­sult­ed, and Informed. You may have seen them called a Respon­si­bil­i­ty Assign­ment Matrix (RAM), Lin­ear Respon­si­bil­i­ty Chart (LRC), or respon­si­bil­i­ty matrix, but they all do the same thing: keep track of the roles and respon­si­bil­i­ties on a project to pre­vent road­blocks and clar­i­fy com­mu­ni­ca­tion. They’ll save your life.

What does RACI stand for?

R is responsible

This is the person on the team who does the work.

When we’re talking about responsibility, it’s all about who’s doing the work. So when you’re thinking about project tasks, get clarity about whether this work happens on your team or outside of it.

Remember to break requirements down small enough and assign them so only one person can be responsible for one task at a time. Different folks can be working on complementary things in tandem (e.g. code branches), but each knows where their work stops or combines. This allows us to stay agile and collaborative, while still making sure everyone’s clear on who’s working on what/when.

A is Accountable

Internally, this is the project manager. Externally, it’s often your POC.

Who’s accountable that the work gets done? The project manager almost always. When heads are on the line, it’s the PM who is accountable for the project direction and all decisions made. It’s a huge responsibility, so it’s important for you to define project success and failure before you start filling in your RACI diagram.

Remember that externally, your POC will have her own chain of command to impress. How much power does she really have? Is it real? Or is she a puppet controlled by someone higher up?

Hierarchies tend to build fear into this accountability role, so have open conversations early and often to clarify how the power structure works. Find out who can kill the project and who can save it, and build strong allies with your POC as it’s often her head rolling on the other side of the project line. She’s trying to protect her position. Sudden changes to her role or multiple voices disagreeing at the table can tip you off.

Beware: Surprise voices are flipping the chain of command and will balloon the project scope or stall it out.

C is Consulted

This is the person who needs to know things before a decision is made.

Your boss, your team, your external stakeholders. They all need to be consulted at various points in the project. The more collaboratively you work, the more folks you’ll have to consult with before making a decision. There are good reasons for this and bad.

The good? You’ll all come to unanimous decisions that support your project goals and you decrease misunderstanding. The bad? It takes a lot longer and can lead to stalemates.

Word to the wise: define your business and project goals before you start so all decisions must support them. Limit your external stakeholders or charge for the additional voices at the table. Make sure your team understands each other’s roles so consulting isn’t about ego, it’s about doing great work.

I is Informed

This is the person who needs to know things after a decision is made.

Decided to add a new resource? Adjusted a deadline? The key to knowing who should be informed is asking: how will this impact [name]?

If it’s minimal and you’ve all agreed to direct the flow of communication before you start, don’t bother people with the bits. Document the decisions, but don’t bother people. If the impact will make someone say, “Hey, why did we change or approve this?” or “I wish I’d known that…” you should make sure you inform the right folks.

Teams often get trapped in mini conversations where they make decisions with one or two other people but forget to inform the rest of the team. This can quickly blow up in their faces.

Warning! People who are initially informed often try to slide into the ‘consulted’ role—it just feels nice and they want a say. This leads to mystery voices that take you away from your project goals. Call attention to this and adjust your scope if you have more voices at the table. Tell the right people the right things at the right times—and make sure everyone agrees what these things are before you start.

What is a RACI chart?

A RACI chart (also called “raci matrix” or “raci diagram”) is a table that includes every role or team member on one axis and their related areas of responsibility on the other. Each cell includes one or more letters representing each person’s role on the project.

Psst: you can design your RACI chart any way you’d like—though we do have a great template below.

How to implement a RACI chart

To make your own RACI chart, you will want to start by listing all of a project’s roles in one axis and a project’s responsibilities in another. Internally, your team might have a pretty good idea of who’s responsible for design, development, content, and admin-related tasks, but we often forget to clarify our external stakeholder involvement and respective roles.

Will your Point of Contact (POC) be informed and consulted, or just informed? Will your POC have a boss who will be consulted or informed? Is anyone else accountable for tasks on this project? Who will take the fall if it fails?

The more you know about these stakeholder relationships, the better you can wrangle their expectations and limit mystery voices at the table that will derail you. So forget about complicated spreadsheets, build these RACI roles into your communication plan so you can reference it when things start warming up. Your team and clients will thank you.

Important: don’t get caught up on creating an elaborate RACI that is hung up on minutia. It’s a good idea for you to make a point of clearly defining your roles and responsibilities outside of the RACI chart, so that you are not left with an overly complex spreadsheet. In other words, don’t treat the plan as a replacement for the planning process.The idea of a RACI is a quick reference guide, and nobody’s gonna feel compelled to refer to a document that gives them a splitting headache.

The benefits of a RACI chart

  • Takes minimal time to create
  • Can be used as a reference across the team
  • Clarifies roles and responsibilities
  • Helps with project handoffs and transitions
  • Encourages smoother communication between stakeholders and teams

The disadvantages of a RACI chart

  • May leave gaps related to external stakeholders
  • Leaves rooms for “mystery voices”
  • Traditionally designed for Waterfall projects
  • Projects with lots of stakeholders may not fit into a RACI framework

Get our RACI template

Sign up for our newsletter and get your projects on track with our RACI template pack. You’ll get:

  • A Notion template
  • Google sheets template
  • Printable PDF guide
The cover of our RACI PDF guide

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