Sorting out who does what brings benefits

Determining roles and responsibilities in organisations saves time and cash

Can the RACI model of allocating roles and responsibilities help avoid confusion when it comes to projects or are other models more effective?

RACI stands for Responsible, Accountable, Consulted and Informed. According to George Spafford, writing on IT Management, a RACI chart allows for each step in the task to be identified along with each stakeholder and their responsibilities.

According to Value-Based Management, the first step of RACI is to identify all the processes involved in a task, write them down the left side of the chart, while putting all the roles on the top. Then you add who is Responsible, Accountable, Consulted and Informed for each step.

Value-Based Management says that generally, each process should have only one R and any overlaps should be resolved, perhaps by detailing the sub-processes involved. Gaps should also be identified.

IT Management’s Spafford says identifying who is responsible for a process ensures it gets done and avoids the problems that occur when too many people are given responsibility with little coordination. Additionally, if someone has too many “Rs” beside their name, they may be doing too much.

Spafford says only one person should be accountable, and sometimes risks can be managed by separating the “responsible” and “accountable” roles.

The “consulted” part of RACI covers those consulted before the task is done, he says.

“As the number of parties consulted increases, the speed with which action can be taken decreases. Conversely, too few and improper decisions may be made.”

Those “informed” covers the people notified after a task is done, ensuring that no-one is left wondering what has changed and that more people than necessary aren’t informed.

There is also a fifth item that can be added if needed — “supports”, covering people who provide resources for a task to be completed.

When a chart is completed it should show how each stakeholder is involved, accountability, that there isn’t an excessive workload on one person and that segregation of duties is appropriate as are the number of people being informed or consulted.

However, not everyone is convinced that RACI helps. Writing on CIO.com, N Dean Meyersays that even when tasks are sorted among groups in “excruciating detail”, knowing just who is accountable for the results still is not clear.

“And when you sort tasks outside the context of responsibility for results, there’s nothing to stop you from accidentally separating accountability and authority, which disempowers staff and sets them up to fail. The traditional ‘roles and responsibilities’ approach to job definition is flawed in that it defines what people do, rather than what they sell (whether or not money actually changes hands).”

Meyer suggests organisations use BWB (the business-within-a-business model).

“You’d define jobs in terms of the business each group is in — that is, job descriptions would define what products and services staff sell, not what they do to make them. Then, you can look at any project and know who’s the prime contractor — the one and only group that’s in the business of selling that particular product line.”

That prime contractor is accountable for delivery of the project and has the authority needed. They can also subcontract with peers for their products and services (and subcontractors can also buy help from others).

Through subcontracting with peers, teamwork automatically flows across the entire organisation.

“Since people only buy what they need, teams comprise just the right people contributing to each team just the right deliverables at just the right time.

“This is a far more effective approach to teamwork than vague words about ‘partnership’ and the ‘all for one, one for all’ spirit in which everybody steps on everybody else’s turf and no one is really accountable for the end deliverable. In the BWB approach, individual accountabilities are clear, as is the chain of command.”

He says project management is also a lot easier in a BWB organisation. “Instead of one person trying to direct the work of an entire project team, the prime contractor simply subcontracts with peers for sub-deliverables. Then, the subcontractors manage their portions of the project."

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