Monday, February 11, 2013

RACI Essentials – Nine Important Considerations

RACI is a responsibility assignment matrix for humans to use to solve problems.  While the normal knowledge worker in North America is inundated with email and attends meetings that hinder productivity, those who utilize the RACI process have experienced huge gains in productivity and efficiency.  In 2010, waste due to email cost an average employer $8,200- $14,000 per employee per year.   RACI is defined here.  RACI can cut down on a substantial amount of this waste if used properly however it could also have a negative effect.  This page contains nine important tips for RACI Leadership.

1.  First, define the role of the group.

This is an essential first step to strengthening any kind of accountability. Is the group developing a recommendation? Offering advice and counsel?  Receiving information? Or making a decision about something? It is possible – even likely – that the role of the group will shift with every item on its agenda. Whatever the group’s role is, make it clear to everyone.

2. Think about what kind of preparation work members of the group need to do, in order to perform their role well.

Chances are, if the group is doing anything more than receiving information, people will need to come prepared to the meeting to do good work there. If you suspect that people haven’t had the time to come up to speed, reserve part of the beginning of the meeting as a “study hall” where people can read and absorb what’s important for the conversation.

3. Be rigorous about keeping track of Next Steps.

Unproductive meetings often involve lots of conversation, but no clear path forward. As you facilitate or lead a meeting, make sure that you or someone else is winnowing all the discussion down into a concrete set of action steps.

4. Assign accountability for each Next Step, and set a deadline.

A Next Step without an “owner” is not very likely to get done. The same problem exists for next steps with too many owners. Take the time to negotiate accountability for the follow up right then and there in the meeting, and make sure that someone writes it down. Then, when the group convenes again, make sure that person is written down on the agenda as the “owner” of that piece of the work.

These simple ideas will enhance accountability tremendously, and that in turn will enhance the effectiveness of your meetings. If you’re lucky, before long people will be asking you to cancel some of the project meetings so they can focus on the work they’ve committed to do in between – and you will have accelerated your project’s momentum with fewer meetings.

What not to do?

5. Don’t explain why you are using RACI.

You don’t want people to think that RACI is being imposed on them “from above” without any explanation of its value.  Start teaching RACI by explaining why it prevents problems down the line.  It’s worth the investment of time to think about roles on your team.   If you need help with this, click here for the blog, “Why RACI Matters.”

6. Don’t clearly define the RACI codes.

Reaching agreement on roles is hard if you spend the whole meeting struggling to understand what “R” means and what “A” means.  We will write soon about understanding the RACI codes.

7. Don’t create an overly complicated RACI matrix.

Part of the art of creating a RACI matrix is FOCUSING on 8-10 activities that are the most critical.   You can define “critical” by how important the steps are, or you can zero in on the activities where there is likely to be confusion or overlap.   If you need to, break the plan into 2 or 3 separate RACI charts, rather than trying to build a single, overloaded chart.   For more advice on limiting the scope of a RACI chart, see “How big should a RACI chart be, anyway?”

8. Don’t allow time for negotiation.

The real value of RACI is that it teaches a simple language for negotiating roles on a team or a project.  That means that the real pay off comes when people don’t agree on who should do the work, or where the decision will really get made.  These discussions are the heart and soul of RACI, and its principle value.  If instead you rush through the creation of the RACI matrix, people may just go through the motions.  After the meeting, they just go do “their own thing.”

9. Don’t work with a group that’s too large.

Forty-five people on a committee is a huge group – if they are going to negotiate roles and create a common project plan,  you’ll need to break them into smaller groups of 8-10 people and then allow time for them to work on distinct parts of the project,  and time to combine their efforts back together again.   You can end up with a unified product but you’ll need to allow sufficient time to build it from smaller chunks.

Avoid these pitfalls and you can have a much more successful experience with RACI.  No alphabet soup!

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