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Whose project is it anyway?

How to clarify project roles and responsibilities

Three of the main problems that affect project success are unclear responsibilities, poor communication, and ill-defined decision-making. If team members are unclear about their role, tasks can get missed or there may be a duplication of efforts. When communication is poor, this can lead to misunderstandings and people disengaging from the project. When it is not clear who will make what decisions, conversations become protracted, and progress is slowed.

 

This is where the RACI matrix can help. This tool ensures that every action that needs to be completed in the project has someone assigned as responsible for it, that the appropriate people are involved, that project progress is clearly communicated, and that decision-making is well thought through.

RACI roles

RACI is an acronym for the four roles people might take in a project:

  • Responsible: the person who will complete project tasks or ensure decisions are made. Ideally one person is given responsibility for each task, although they might be supported by others.
  • Accountable: the person who will approve a task or sign-off a decision. There should only be one person accountable, as the buck stops with them.
  • Consulted: people who need to give input, information, advice or expertise to ensure the task is carried out well, or the decision is well thought through.
  • Informed: people who need to be updated on the progress of tasks or the decisions made.

How to create a RACI matrix

At the first project kick-off meeting you can create or share a RACI matrix outlining the key tasks or decisions that need to happen before the next milestone meeting. You can then repeat this during subsequent milestone meetings. For each task or decision, you determine who is responsible, who is accountable, who needs to be consulted, and who must be kept informed.

An example is shown below for a fundraising event:

Upcoming tasks and decisions

 

Responsible Accountable Consulted Informed
Agree event date Project Manager Project Sponsor Senior Management Team Project Team

Fundraising Team

Campaigns Team

Book venue Events Co-ordinator Project Manager Events Team Project Team
Identify attendees Major Donor Manager Director of Fundraising Philanthropy Team Project Team

Fundraising Team

Agree campaigns to showcase during the event Project Manager Major Donor Manager Campaigns Team Project Team

Campaigns Team

You can also add in deadlines, and how information will be communicated.

Analysing your RACI matrix

You can use your matrix to identify and remove any potential problems:

  • Too many R’s: Does one person have too many tasks assigned to them? Will they have time to do them all?
  • No A’s: There must be one person accountable for each task
  • A lot of C’s: Do all these people need to be consulted as this may slow down the project? Could they be kept informed instead?
  • Agreement: Does everyone agree with the role they are playing and the role that others are being asked to do?

Decision-making

Project progress is often delayed when it is not clear where decision-making sits. Decisions that involve or affect multiple people, teams or departments make this even harder. The RACI matrix can help manage these ambiguities.

Key decisions may involve a number of people being consulted. This means you might get a wide range of input. Ask ten people a question, you might get ten answers.

In the example above, the final decision involves asking the Campaigns Team which campaigns could be showcased during a fundraising event. Each member of the campaigns team might provide the project manager with different suggestions. The question is then, who will make the final decision, who will be accountable? One answer might be to give the decision to the Campaigns Manager, in line with the organisational hierarchy. However, the purpose of the project is to raise funds. It makes more sense to give the decision to the Major Donor Manager who knows the people attending and what campaigns they will respond to.

When project decision-making sits outside of normal hierarchies, it is important that this is shared with those involved. The project manager needs to explain to the campaigns team that we need their input, but the final decision will be made by the Major Donor Manager, and why.

A RACI matrix is a simple but very effective way of defining and documenting responsibilities. It can also help manage people’s expectations and avoid conflicts, helping you to have the right conversations with the right people at the right time.

To develop your project management skills further, take a look at our Project Management Programme. You will learn how to create a project rationale, set measurable results, manage your stakeholders and risks, create accurate project plans and monitor and evaluate success. If you’d like to discuss project management, contact us online or call 020 7978 1516 to speak to a consultant.

 

 

 

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Charlotte Scott

About Charlotte Scott

Charlotte specialises in leadership development, team facilitation and strategy development. Charlotte worked for over 20 years in the not-for-profit sector. Before joining =mc ten years ago, she created and implemented...

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