What Is a RACI Chart? Here’s Everything You Need to Know

By: on November 12, 2019

It takes forever to get a decision made.

I have the responsibility for tasks but not the authority needed to complete them.

Decisions are reversed like a week after they’re made. What gives?

If these sentiments are shared in your project team, odds are the entire project effort is struggling with a lack of clear roles and responsibilities. A RACI chart can be an excellent tool to help alleviate this issue.

What is a RACI chart?

A RACI chart or matrix is a diagram that identifies the key roles and responsibilities against major tasks within a project. It serves as a visual of the role each person on a team is playing. Creating the chart is also an excellent exercise in balancing workload and establishing the decision-maker.

Gartner states, “many important organizational initiatives begin without agreeing on decision authority. This oversight often becomes a painful discovery process—causing unneeded anxiety and frustration” (full report available to Gartner clients only). Kicking off a project effort by creating a RACI chart is one of the best possible ways to eliminate this painful discovery process.

What a RACI chart is not

The RACI chart is not meant to replace the project plan. The project plan details every task to be completed, the timeline, and how the project is to be managed. The RACI chart is to be only a simple visual of roles and responsibilities across the major project tasks.

What does RACI stand for?

RACI is an acronym for responsible, accountable, consulted, and informed. Each represents the roles and levels of involvement of an individual against the corresponding task/milestone. Let’s dive into the definition of each term.

Responsible Who is responsible for doing the actual work for the task.
Accountable Who is held accountable for the success of the task and is the decision maker. Typically the project manager.*
Consulted Who needs to be consulted for details and additional info on requirements. Typically the person or team to be consulted will be the subject matter experts.
Informed Who needs to be kept informed of major updates. Typically senior leadership.

*Pro tip: This should be one person whenever possible so as to avoid confusion and slow decision making.

How to create a RACI chart

Below we’ll cover the six steps you’ll need to follow to create your own RACI chart.

To get you started we made a template for you here (there’s an example for a website launch under the blank chart). Follow each step below to fill out the chart for your project.

Step 1: Identify the team members.

Examples include the project manager, executive sponsor, software developer, and business analyst.

Pro tip: Use names whenever it makes sense—as opposed to job titles or teams. This helps solidify the commitment of the person in their role on the matrix.

Step 2: Identify the major milestones in the project.

If we take a project like building a website, the examples are the website design, testing, and client approval.

Step 3: Draw a matrix with a row for each team member and a column for each task/milestone.

You can easily use Microsoft Excel or another software program to create the RACI chart.

Step 4: Fill in each box with the corresponding R, A, C, and I to designate the role of each person for every task.

With the client approval milestone of the website example, the project manager would be responsible for getting their approval, the executive sponsor would be accountable, and the developer needs to be informed of the outcome.

Step 5: Discuss, analyze, and get approval from the project team.

To take our example again, it’s possible the executive sponsor wants to be the person who meets with the client to get their approval, hence they would be responsible for this task.

Step 6: Provide everyone a copy. You can just email the file out to everyone.

I really like this simple RACI chart that Adrian Neumeyer, of the helpful site Tactical Project Manager, created for a fictitious construction project.

RACI chart simple example

Example RACI chart (Source)

Pitfalls and how to avoid them

Let’s dive into the five most common mistakes people make when creating their RACI chart. Avoid these pitfalls to ensure your RACI chart—and the project with which it’s associated—succeeds:

1. Getting too granular

  • This is not the project plan. The tasks and responsibilities should not be detailed or drill down to daily or even weekly tasks.
  • If there is confusion or requests to add more detail to the RACI, it’s time to circulate the project plan.

2. Using the same matrix for every project

  • The RACI chart template can be reused for standardization, and typically the PMO will maintain the template. But each project will have varying degrees of complexity and milestones and the chart should represent this.

3. Lack of consistency

  • The person named as “accountable” should be the decision-maker at each task/step/milestone they are assigned in the matrix. Deviating from the defined roles in the “real-life” execution will lead to distrust, confusion, and weaken the power of the RACI chart.

4. Adding too many columns

  • Each task/column in the chart should be one that requires a potential decision to be made. So, not administrative tasks like team meetings.

5. Mixing up who is responsible for who is accountable

  • The person designated as the R should not also be the A for the same task. It is very rare that the person performing the task (responsible) is also authorized to approve the work or make decisions (accountable).

We covered what a RACI chart is and what it is not, and I’ve given you some pro tips and ways to avoid common pitfalls. You should now know that the RACI chart is a powerful tool to establish clarity of expectations and improve the decision-making process.

If you have any questions or would like to share your thoughts, tweet me @AnalystOlivia. I love hearing from my readers!

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