Friday, February 07, 2014

RACI and Natural Language

There are many patterns for communication modelling how real world collaboration works is sometimes difficult.  One of the hardest things for a human being to do is to think about how they think. When we talk to people and start a conversation, they naturally do a few subtle things that are missing from email. This is how a conversation in person usually goes:

Person1: Hello. (introduction if necessary)
Person2: Hello
P1: I wanted to talk to you today to get your input into our current marketing campaign. I am responsible for making the final approval.
P2: sure
P1: Specifically, by Friday I have to launch the new campaign and we still don’t have a final logo chosen.
P2: So how can I help
P1: If you have time, I’d like it if you could review the choices and provide input on your favourites and why
P2: No problem. When do you need it by?
P1: Is tomorrow ok? It should take 5-10 minutes

Note that P1 has relayed the exact same model as RACI here.  Person 1 have stated a project, a deadline and more importantly has informed Person 2 of exactly what they are expected to do with the information.  There is a lot of subtlety going on here.  So why is email ineffective for the same purpose?  Simple, both speaker and listener do not share a context of the collaboration.  A lot of very subtle communication is done via body language.   In real time communication, a person can detect if the other does not seem to have the information by noting inquisitive looks or blank stares and fill in the blank.

The email version of the above is:

Dear P2:

Check these design out and let me know what you think. We have to launch friday.


This gets lost in the inbox of course. The natural flow of language will be important to observe as we launch. One hypothesis is that email is relatively inefficient at conveying knowledge since it is often an asynchronous exchange and messages that arrive can be easily taken out of context. This, of course, is well known.

So how does RACI help?  Even if using RACI does nothing more than simply structure the roles for people, it provides that context around the communication and collaboration thread.  Individuals are empowered with the information of why they are being included in the collaboration.

RACI matrix software can also help structure this communication in a manner that is unambiguous and has the capability to facilitate decisions being made in a timely manner.  RACI is a good model.

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