How to Design a Successful RACI Project Plan

No matter how detailed and complete a project plan may be, confusion or omission of participant roles and responsibilities will cause major problems. IT management coach and consultant Bob Kantor outlines the simplest and most effective approach to define and document project roles and responsibilities, and improve project outcomes -- the RACI model.

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The simple process for creating a RACI model includes the following six steps:

  1. Identify all the tasks involved in delivering the project and list them on the left-hand side of the chart in completion order. For IT projects, this is most effectively addressed by incorporating the PLC steps and deliverables. (This is illustrated in the detailed example below, after the simplified version immediately below.)
  2. Identify all the project stakeholders and list them along the top of the chart.
  3. Complete the cells of the model identifying who has responsibility, accountability and who will be consulted and informed for each task.
  4. Ensure every task has at least one stakeholder Responsible for it.
  5. No tasks should have more than one stakeholder Accountable. Resolve any conflicts where there is more than one for a particular task.
  6. Share, discuss and agree the RACI model with your stakeholders at the start of the project. This includes resolving any conflicts or ambiguities.

Here is an illustration of such a simplified RACI model:

RACI model

Resolving conflicts and ambiguities involves looking across each row and up and down each column for the following:

Analysis for each stakeholder:

Are there too many R's: Does one stakeholder have too much of the project assigned to them?
No empty cells: Does the stakeholder need to be involved in so many of the activities? Can Responsible be changed to Consulted, or Consulted changed to Informed? I.e., are there too many "cooks in this kitchen" to keep things moving? (And if so, what does that say about the culture within which this project is being managed?)
Buy-in: Does each stakeholder totally agree with the role that they are specified to play in this version of the model? When such agreement is achieved, that should be included in the project's charter and documentation.

Analysis for each PLC step or deliverable:

No R's: Who is doing the work in this step and getting things done? Whose role is it to take the initiative?
Too many R's: Is this another sign of too many "cooks in this kitchen" to keep things moving?
No A's: Who is Accountable? There must be one 'A' for every step of the PLC. One stakeholder must be Accountable for the thing happening -- "the buck stops" with this person.
More than one A: Is there confusion on decision rights? Stakeholders with accountability have the final say on how the work should be done and how conflicts are resolved. Multiple A's invite slow and contentious decision-making.
Every box filled in: Do all the stakeholders really need to be involved? Are there justifiable benefits in involving all the stakeholders, or is this just covering all the bases?
A lot of C's: Do all the stakeholders need to be routinely Consulted, or can they be kept Informed and raise exceptional circumstances if they feel they need to be Consulted? Too many C's in the loop really slows down the project.
Are all true stakeholders included in this model: Sometimes this is more of a challenge to ensure, as it's an error of omission. This is often best addressed by a steering committee or management team.

PLC Meets RACI

It is the above analyses, which are readily enabled by the use of the RACI model, that deliver the real benefit of the model. It is the integration of the model with a specific PLC that ensures that the project is structured for success. Without either component, problems with the structure of the project management process may remain hidden until (or even while...) they cause the project to bog down. Making the time and effort to create a customized PCL/RACI for each significant project is an opportunity to design your project management process for project success.

Here's a much more detailed example of a PLC with RACI model. This is specific to one company's IT PLC and key stakeholder groups. As such, you would need to replace their PLC along the left-hand vertical axis with your own PLC. You would also need to replace their stakeholder groups or functions along the top horizontal axis with your own stakeholders. Please note that this version also specifies project documentation artifacts that support each step of the PLC.

detailed-RACI.jpg

Bob Kantor is an IT management coach and consultant, specializing in improving IT leadership effectiveness. He welcomes your comments and suggestions. Reach him at KantorConsultingGroup.com

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