Using RACI to Drive Change

By Precillia Redmond

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The RACI model is commonly used in business to define responsibilities and accountabilities for project, however it is not often used to ensure all responsibilities are covered after a major organizational transformation. A RACI—responsible, accountable, consulted, informed—can be used to track a process flow and hand-offs, and as the foundation to effect change in behavior.

Leaders can build a RACI model to highlight any gaps and overlaps in responsibility coverage and use the exercise to launch a discussion on appropriate segregation of duties, span of process control, and highlight any bottlenecks that may be preventing the organization from being as lean and effective as possible. In this way, the RACI can be used to articulate an end state vision and provide a road-map for getting there.

Recently a client asked for support to identify whether the transformation undergone by the organization had created any gaps or overlaps with respect to roles or responsibilities among his direct reports. The considerable change undergone by the organization led to the executive to focus the RACI model development on the following three key objectives:

       Clarify end-to-end responsibilities, re-enforcing hand offs between functional areas;

       Enable responsiveness between the organization and its clients, as well as internally; and

       Ensure ownership of all responsibilities and key processes within the organization.

The organization’s leadership team, representing the roles on the RACI, is comprised of new and veteran employees. As in many other organizations, some functional responsibilities evolved instead of being actively planned. This evolution of responsibilities into different areas resulted in duplication of work, confusion around which department is ultimately accountable and/or responsible for various functions, and disagreement around what the end-state should look like. The business case for using a RACI to create a comprehensive view of a clearer end-state derives from the current-state impacts below:

Unfocused activities: By focusing on the wrong activities the group is not harnessing the appropriate resources or effort to deliver effectively

Higher costs: Duplication of effort illustrates organizational inefficiencies resulting in a higher cost to delivering services

A leadership team at odds: A fragmented leadership team makes it difficult for the business leaders to understand the stakeholders who are responsible or accountable for particular activities versus those who should be consulted or informed.

Unknown risk: With the rapid transformation, there were functions that lacked ownership, leading to a potential gap in critical service delivery.

To address the impacts of the current-state inefficiencies and assist with building a transition plan to the end-state vision, we used an approach embedded in the top ten tips outlined below.

RACI Top 10

1. As with any other initiative, executive sponsorship is key to the successful creation and implementation of a RACI. Before an organization engages in the process of developing a RACI, leadership should outline the value of a RACI and how it will be used to clarify roles and responsibilities and effect change specific change.

2. Agree on a common definition. In an acronym laden business environment, RACI can sounds similar to other models and although many claim to be familiar with it, it is a tool often overused and misunderstood.

       “R” represents any role that contributes to the accomplishment of an activity. There can be multiple roles responsible for completing a process or activity, depending on the level of detail of the RACI.

       “A” represents the one role which has accountability. Think of accountability as where the buck stops.

       “C” represents any role which is consulted in order for the process to progress towards completion. A consultation should be thought of as bi-directional communication, where information is both given and received. There is no restriction to the number of “Cs” for a given process.

       “I” represents any role which needs to be informed. No restriction exists on the number of informed parties, but thought should be given to whether or not this is a key hand-off.

3. Use a best practice framework to get started and build a common set of processes. While the framework itself is not important, it is important to agree the scope and set of processes in the RACI. Using a best practice description of processes builds a common understanding among all participants. Using an industry standard distribution of responsibilities provides a baseline with which to start the conversations and jump start the process.

4. Document perspectives from each represented stakeholder. One on one interviews are a useful way to understand individual perspectives. Individual interviews enrich the process as some employees may have different styles, which are not always leveraged in a team atmosphere. Additionally, interviews allow the RACI aggregator to pull in data from other interviews, connect the dots, ask probing questions, etc. to get to the root cause of a gap or disconnect between people and groups. This is served by asking the questions, “What is working?” and “What is not working well?”

5. Agree to a common language, roles, and responsibilities as a group. One person’s understanding of what a role is supposed to do may be different than another. Ensure all participants understand the roles listed in the RACI by facilitating a session where the role owner describes his role. Similarly, use a group setting to clarify the language and avoid common communication pitfalls such as acronyms, abbreviations, or consultant-speak. Each process line should begin with a verb in the active voice.

6. Discuss gaps and brainstorm what’s missing as a group. While identifying gaps can be done in the individual interviews, it is beneficial to discuss them in a group setting to understand the root cause of the gap. Perhaps it is a broken link in a communication chain (e.g., a missing C or I) or it could be that everyone is responsible but no one is accountable. Brainstorming and discussing gaps as a group helps to prevent territoriality. Agreeing what should be in the RACI helps everyone focused on the end-state in lieu of looking in the rear view mirror at how “things have always been”.

7. Agree to the level of detail for roles. In an effort to ensure all responsibilities are covered, ensure that the level of detail is the same across the different roles. For example roles should be operating at a peer level or share a common manager to ensure that the level of work or responsibilities are at the same level of detail. This is especially critical when developing a RACI to validate a transformation as it provides input to resource requirements and related efforts.

8. Plan the implementation as a team to ensure buy-in and a common understanding of the tasks. Prevent your RACI from collecting dust on the virtual shelf by putting it into action. Reading a process across should detail the role responsible for performing the activity, where an exchange of information happens, who is informed, and the role accountable for completion. An assessment of the end-state RACI may provide a very different view from the way processes are undertaken today. A useful exercise to conduct is to have the group articulate the actions that each group needs to Stop, Start, and Continue to ensure continuity of process and action the new RACI.


9. Communicate any changes to roles, responsibilities or process steps to anyone that the RACI touches. Any significant change to roles and responsibilities should be communicated to key stakeholders to avoid any disruption to service levels.

10. Don’t treat the RACI as static. Assign someone to keep it updated. The RACI, like any other document created at a point in time, reflects the processes that are in place at that time. Therefore, the model should be revisited on a regular basis as agreed by the team to ensure any change of process is captured accurately.

The process of developing the RACI can provide increased visibility into which processes are adequately being covered by the organization and a gap analysis on which processes are not residing in the proper functional area. The end-state RACI ensures ownership of all responsibilities and key processes within the organization, strengthening the organization’s ability to respond to its customers.

Christa Hoffmeier is a managing consultant in PA Consulting Group’s IT Consulting practice. Christa has 16 years’ consulting experience in leading complex technology and process reengineering initiatives for a range of industries, including financial services, manufacturing, and retail.

Precillia Redmond is a consultant in PA Consulting Group’s IT Consulting practice. She has seven years of experience in organizational strategy and human resources, project management, and business process redesign.