The good news is that RACI is a relatively simple management tool. The bad news is that you generally need to go beyond the basics for it to help make teams more effective. In particular, clarify the approving authority, the difference between consulting and concurring, and when to inform people before or after the fact, likely having one approving authority, requiring as few to concur as practical, and informing more people sooner.

As Dana Miranda and Rob Watts describe in What Is A RACI Chart, RACI is generally an acronym for Responsible, Accountable, Consulted and Informed. Here’s a more complete framework, adding in approving authority, reordering and adding some detail:

  • Approving authority: Passes accountability to someone else, retaining approval/decision rights.
  • Accountable: The person called to account. Overall ownership of results. Drives decisions. Ensures implementation.
  • Responsible: Does defined work (and signs off on their portion of the work)
  • Consulted: Provides expertise-based input (to be considered) and/or direction/concurrence (to be followed) – Two-way conversations
  • Informed: In advance or after the fact – One-way communication

Let’s go into a little more depth on the approving authority, consulted and informed.

Approving Authority

As you form a team, clarify what they need to get done and why. E.g. do xxx in order to yyy. Clarify who is making what decisions. Often the person forming a team retains decision rights as the approving authority and then delegates accountability to someone else to get the work done.

Key point: accountability is different than decision-making authority.

If you’re the approving authority, be deliberate about how much leash you’re giving people.

At one extreme is keeping a team on a short leash, meeting with them on a regular basis to approve decisions about each step of the process. This, of course, keeps you more in control. But the line between this and micro-management is thin.

In any case, this is dramatically different than what Neville Isdell used to do at Coca-Cola, giving us strategic boundaries and telling us to assume his approval on anything within those bounds while requiring us to get his explicit approval for anything outside the guard rails. Doing this gives you less control and more leverage as you inspire, enable and empower others.

Consulting input vs concurrence

There’s a massive difference between consulting that is providing input to be considered and direction or concurrence to be followed. It’s like the difference between guidelines that should be followed (like legal risk and options) and policies that must be followed (like laws that cannot be broken.)

The more people that can say no or block progress, the harder it is to move things forward. It’s a completely different task if the responsible party seeks input from five people and then draws their own conclusions than if they have to get five people to concur.

Timing of informed

Be deliberate and clear about when to inform people before or after the fact. If people are informed far enough in advance of an action, they can provide input or even redirection. If you inform people after an action has already taken place, they can’t do that – though they can factor that action into their future decisions.

Steven Covey tells the story of being on the deck of a submarine on the surface of the water with its captain. The office of the watch came on deck and said, “Captain, I intend to take this boat to a depth of 100 meters in five minutes.” Covey noted the officer of the watch was neither asking nor recommending, but, rather, informing – and informing before he took action so the captain and Covey did not get wet.

Make the tool work for you

Leverage the RACI tool to make your teams more effective by making the tool serve the team, not the other way around. Almost by definition, RACI is needed more in more complex situations. Use RACI to help people understand those complexities. Just don’t let it become a complicating factor itself.

The heart of this is still RACI. You just need to go beyond the basics, adding an approving authority, changing the order and explicitly defining the difference between input to be considered and direction or concurrence to be followed, as well as when which people should be informed.

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