Decision-making and the RACI Matrix

Decision-making and the RACI Matrix

Decision-making can be one of the toughest challenges faced by teams and organizations. For a vast number of reasons, many groups have difficulty making good decisions in a timely manner. One common reason is that it is frequently unclear who needs to be involved in the decision-making process, and in what capacity. 

Analyzing an organization’s decision-making process through a RACI Matrix can often resolve this issue. A RACI Matrix clarifies team member responsibilities and clearly displays who is responsible, who is accountable, and who needs to be consulted and/or informed of project activities. The RACI Matrix was originally developed to help project managers identify project roles and responsibilities so that tasks were accomplished. However, RACI can also be applied to most decision-making processes. 

“RACI” stands for “Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, and Informed.” 
• The people who are Responsible (R) own the work, decision or objective. It is their responsibility to do what needs to be done. Several people can be jointly responsible to complete the assigned task. 
• The person who is Accountable (A) “owns” the work and must sign off or approve when the work, decision, or objective is completed. Only one person is accountable. 
• The people who are Consulted (C) must give input before the work can be started, completed, and/or accepted. 
• The people who are Informed (I) must be kept notified of progress, but they do not need to be consulted. 

In general, the RACI Matrix is used to: 
• Ensure that the right people are involved in a project or a decision; 
• Ensure that individual responsibilities are clear; 
• Analyze individual workloads; and 
• Minimize conflict by clarifying responsibilities and reducing unnecessary overlap of tasks. 

This latter use, the minimization of conflict, is where RACI is particularly useful in organizations. I often see conflict arise when people who are in the “Informed” group, erroneously think or believe that they are or should be in the “Consulted” group. 

For example, suppose an organization is hiring a new COO. Arguably, the COO’s decisions could affect the job of every single individual in the organization. This means that a lot of people might think they should be consulted about the choice of COO, meaning they want to give their opinion and they want their opinion to be considered. If they don’t think their opinion has been taken into account, they will get angry. 

It might be possible to consult everyone in a small organization, but doing so could cripple the decision-making process of a large organization. Thus before the hiring process begins, the Accountable person and the Responsible people should decide whose input they need to obtain and consider, and who they are going to simply inform of their progress. They should then communicate this to everyone, so that people have realistic expectations. 

The other area where the RACI Matrix can be very useful is in clarifying who is Accountable. Yes, technically, the head of an organization should ultimately be accountable for whatever happens in her organization. However, the CEO simply cannot oversee everything that goes on. If she tries to play that role, she will get overwhelmed, decisions won’t get made, and projects won’t get finished. Ensuring that each project has a designated Accountable person, who oversees and signs off on that particular project or decision, will help ensure a successful outcome. The Accountable person does not need to be the most senior person on a team or in an organization. 

So, if your organization is getting bogged down in decisions, try stepping back and viewing your process through the prism of the RACI Matrix. It may be that clarifying people’s roles will ultimately clarify your decisions.