Use a Responsibility Matrix to fight Project CHAOS

Project Planning

Project teams, specially those working on large projects or programs with a lot of cross functional interactions, its common to have ambiguity to creep on the ownership of specific deliverable. In such cases a Project Responsibility Matrix can be used as an effective tool to reduce CHAOS by creating a clear accountability rules for the project deliverable.

A responsibility matrix also know as the RACI (Responsible,Accountable,Consult & Inform) or the RAM (Responsibility Assignment Matrix) is a tabular representation of the tasks , phases or deliverables within a project along with their  various degrees of responsibilities with respect to the project team members.

Each project task or deliverable is represented as a row in the matrix, whereas the project team members or roles are represented in the columns of the table.Typically in small projects it may be possible to have individual team members represented in the columns but it is generally a good practice to have the distinct roles in the columns.

Elements of a Responsibility Matrix

A responsibility matrix can be implemented in different ways that best suits an individual project. However there are some basic common elements which each responsibility matrix must have

  • Responsible (‘R’) –  This will refer to a person or a role which is responsible for executing the task.
  • Accountable (‘A’) –  This will be the person will be accountable for the specific deliverable. It is critical to have one and only one person to be accountable for each specific deliverable.
  • Consult – (‘C’) – These will be the person / group will be consulted in the process of executing the task or delivering a project deliverable.There can be multiple people who can be consulted and these interactions with them are critical for the deliverable.
  • Informed (‘I’) – This are the people who will be kept informed on the progress of the deliverable as the project moves through the execution cycle.

There may be cases where the same person or a group is both accountable and responsible for executing the tasks for example a project manager is both responsible and accountable for publishing the project time-lines, in such cases you may have more than one attribute in a single cell. learn more about project management at http://www.aroundthechaos.com/why-project-estimates-fail/

Uses of a Responsibility Matrix

  • Communication Tool – The responsibility matrix servers as a great communication tool for the stakeholders of the project as it provides them with visibility of the deliverables and the people who are accountable for those. It also defines the engagement rules for Interactions between cross functional teams as well as team members.
  • Conflict Management Tool – Since a responsibility matrix is the single source of truth for identifying the ownership and accountability it can act as a tool to avoid any potential conflict that arise due to ownership and accountability as well as resolve conflicts.
  • Address Overlaps – A responsibility matrix can also bring out any overlaps of responsibility that may exist in a project. These overlaps must be addressed to optimize project execution.
  • Project Status Assessment – Although not one of the direct benefits of a responsibility matrix, it can be used by the project manager to analyze the project and uncover any hidden risks that may arise out of any complex deliverables represented in the responsibility matrix.

Best Practices

  • Publish It – The sooner in the life-cycle of the project you have the responsibility matrix published the better it is. Ideally it is expected to have one created during the analysis / planning phase.
  • Single ownership – Each task in the responsibility matrix MUST have a single owner. In other words there must be only one accountable person for each task. You may have multiple people responsible for executing the task but the accountability should be single , so as to be clear of any ambiguity.
  • Tie Back to the WBS and Project Plan – You should be able to ideally tie back the responsibility matrix back your porject plan or the WBS (if it s detailed enough).
  • Decompose – If you are dealing with large projects or programs its often works well to have multiple responsibility matrixes created based on your Project phases.
  • Legends – Last but the least, It is always a good practice to include a legend of the various elements you have used in your responsibility matrix.

Have any tips on effectively using the responsibility matrix? Feel free to share.