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Is RACI the most undervalued technique in business

If you have ever experienced an organisation or team that struggles with decisions, outcomes, communication, empowerment or collaboration then you may have experienced a RACI issue. For this reason, I believe that RACI is the most undervalued technique in business, let alone business change. 

Let’s start by defining the technique: 

R - Responsible. The ‘doer’ of the work. It is possible to have multiple ‘Rs’ for an activity or outcome. 

A – Accountable. Has overall ‘yes’ or ‘no’ authority. The buck stops with them. There can only be one ‘A’ per activity or outcome. 

C – Consulted. Must be asked for their opinion as part of a two-way communication process. 

I – Informed. Must be kept informed of progress, outcomes and decisions.  

The technique should be used to provide clarity on who is doing what relative to activities and outcomes.

An example partial RACI for the BA Brew Podcast would be:

The Benefits of RACI

A clear and concise RACI provides several benefits. This includes clarity on:

  • What are the key activities and outcomes?
  • Who can make decisions about activities and outcomes?
  • Who is accountable and responsible for activities and outcomes?
  • Who can resolve disagreements?
  • Who must be consulted?
  • Who must be informed?

RACI provides a basis for empowerment and collaboration. A self-organising team can use the technique to discuss required activities and outcomes and agree who is doing what in relation to each item. This approach supports common understanding on who is ‘Accountable’ and ‘Responsible’. Who should to be ‘Consulted’ and ‘Informed’ is also explicit and agreed. The initial RACI can be modified to reflect any changes that emerge as work progresses and understanding deepens.

An Aid to Strategy Execution

From an organisational perspective, a clear RACI can be a beneficial aid for business decision making and strategy execution. For example, if there is an objective to enhance ‘customer experience’, who in the organisation has accountability for meeting this objective? All too often accountability for customer experience is embedded within disparate organisational silos, which creates a tangible barrier that may inhibit improvement. While a RACI alone won’t solve the issue, it provides clarity about any root causes of the problem and ensures there is ownership of the work to resolve this. Rethinking the organisational RACI could be an important first step towards continuous improvement.

Avoid the Blame Game and Focus on Outcomes

Change professionals will be familiar with the all too often blame game that occurs in the event of a failure of a change initiative. The business change sponsor will sometimes get blamed, but all too often blame is placed on the change delivery team. While RACI doesn’t solve this problem on its own, it allows for an upfront discussion on roles and responsibilities. This discussion can shine a light on what may otherwise be avoidable areas of confusion or ambiguity. Departments blaming each other for poor business outcomes is also a potentially a symptom of a poorly designed, non-communicated or non-existent RACI.

Accountability and responsibility for outcomes are key benefits from using RACI. Knowing that you can shape an activity or outcome due to being ‘Accountable’ is empowering. Likewise, knowing that you are responsible for the work can also be beneficial. Clarity on accountability and responsibility helps to engender a culture where there is greater concern for achieving business outcomes. We must have the ability to harness feedback and learn from our successes and failures. Questions such as ‘how well did perform an activity or deliver an outcome’ must be asked if we are to engender learning and continuous improvement. Greater accountability, feedback and reflection on outcomes and results are significant steps towards achieving this. 

RACI Problems 

No tool is a silver bullet and RACI is no different. There can be several issues with RACI including:

  • Too large (each step in every activity outcome is explored in too much detail)
  • Confusion between deliverables, activities and outcomes 
  • RACI is not documented or communicated
  • RACI being used as a tool to assign blame

A RACI should not set out each step required to complete an activity or outcome as this creates confusion and reduces empowerment. A 200-line spreadsheet with 40 different stakeholders is not easily understood and will undermine the usefulness of the technique. The aim should be for a succinct and clear definition of who plays which part in performing tasks, creating deliverables and achieving outcomes, 

Care must be taken to guard against RACI being used as a negative and potentially harmful tool to assign blame. The use of RACI is perhaps best suited to a culture which supports psychological safety and continual learning. 

Conclusion

RACI provides a means from which to develop understanding of what an organisation or team should achieve and the contribution that should be made by each individual or role. It aids with clarity, ownership and empowerment so is a pre-requisite for a team to collaborate effectively. It’s utility as a technique is often overlooked because of its relative simplicity. However, while the RACI structure looks simple, the work to develop a relevant RACI requires collaboration, reflection and discussion. The benefits gained are worth the effort though!  

If you would like to know more about RACI then listen to our BA Brew Podcast https://www.assistkd.com/learning-zone/ba-brew

 

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