Having managed and rescued dozens of projects, and helped others do so, I've noted that there is always one critical success factor (CSF) that has either been effectively addressed or missed/messed up.
That CSF is clarity around the roles and responsibilities for each project participant and key stakeholder. No matter how detailed and complete a project plan may be for any project, confusion or omission of participant roles and responsibilities will cause major problems.
This is the first assessment I conduct when addressing a project rescue. In almost 100 percent of these rescue efforts, I have found that there is no shared understanding of participant roles and responsibilities, nor is there explicit documentation to support it. Establishing such a consensus almost always gets a stuck project moving again, and enables the key stakeholders to readily deal with the other issues that require resolution.
The simplest and most effective approach I've seen and used to define and document project roles and responsibilities is the RACI model. Integrating the RACI model into an organization's Project Life Cycle (PLC) creates a powerful synergy that enhances and improves project outcomes.
Four Roles in the RACI Model
The RACI model brings structure and clarity to describing the roles that stakeholders play within a project. It is a matrix to clarify responsibilities and ensure that everything the project needs done is assigned a "doer."
To apply the RACI model, you list every task, milestone or key decision, then clarify who is Responsible, who is Accountable, and where appropriate, who needs to be Consulted or Informed. The acronym RACI stands for the four roles that stakeholders might play in any project:
Responsible: People or stakeholders who are the "doers" of the work. They must complete the task or objective or make the decision. Several people can be jointly Responsible.
Accountable: Person or stakeholder who is the "owner" of the work. He or she must sign off or approve when the task, objective or decision is complete. This person must make sure that responsibilities are assigned in the matrix for all related activities. Success requires that there is only one person Accountable, which means that "the buck stops there."
Consulted: People or stakeholders who need to give input before the work can be done and signed-off on. These people are "in the loop" and active participants.
Informed: People or stakeholders who need to be kept "in the picture." They need updates on progress or decisions, but they do not need to be formally consulted, nor do they contribute directly to the task or decision.