Saturday, August 27, 2016

Don't use a RACI Matrix

First of all let me get this out of the way - I think the RACI Matrix is one of the worst project management tools ever invented, unless you look at it from the ‘number of consultant billable hours needed to complete’ $$$ perspective.


It is the type of thing only consultant would dream up, or insist on completing for every project (and I say that as a consultant). Hence, this is not a post on how to build or complete the best RACI Matrix possible, rather I suggest you fire anyone who suggests that “what you need is a RACI Matrix.”

Let’s take a look at the problems with the RACI matrix.

Responsible versus Accountable: while these words actually have different meanings, people tend to struggle with the difference between them and a lot of time gets wasted in debating and explaining the difference between the two. Then people forget and we have to have the debate all over again after a few months.

Consulted: This is the category that signals political power to the other stakeholders, and people will fight for their inclusion in this category. They don’t want to do or be held accountable for the work, but they do want veto power over decisions. And to look down on the “informed” plebs.

Informed: No one wants to be in this category, especially important people, and I’ve had to sit through too many meetings with people lobbying why they should be Consulted not just the lowly informed, and this becomes a political play between the project sponsor who is signing off on this document and the marginal stakeholder we dared to put in this category.

People have tried to address these issues by choosing better words to differentiate the roles (particularly responsible) which is how it is that that there are so many variations such as:


I think that many variations (really attempts to fix the underlying issues) is a sure sign of a bad idea.

There is however one thing a RACI Matrix is excellent at - identifying a dysfunctional organization. I once had a client who insisted on building one for a large program and it literally (I am not making this shit up) took five (F-I-V-E) weeks to complete and sign off. Over a month. From this experience I learned that the time it takes to complete a RACI Matrix correlates to how screwed up an organization is. And the RACI’s use as a test of dysfunction is highly underutilized.

All that said if you are forced to use a RACI:
  1. Do look at the various configurations and alternatives and use one that works for you.
  2. Take the time to agree/educate the team and sponsor on the terms and roles.
  3. Build an introductory presentation and share it each time you meet with a new stakeholder to discuss their roles.
  4. Include or attach an explanatory sheet every time the RACI is shared out

Of course, this blog is all about simple project management, and keeping things simple for overloaded PMs, and I like to keep an owner list for the team with a backup in case the primary is out for some reason.

It can be as simple as the below:


Have a better tool or a different perspective? Let us all know below.

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