RACI matrix: A helpful tool for agile processes

In this day and age, agility, flexibility and shorter decision-making channels are resolutions most companies would like to implement. While some have already introduced agile processes into their organization, others are still eagerly working hard to do so.

When talking about agility, using the RACI matrix to help distribute tasks clearly may sound less flexible and adaptable at first. However, when the benefits and the possibility of integrating the chart into agile processes are recognized, it can be a useful tool. In this article, we will tell you what the matrix is all about, how you can create one for your project and when it is not advisable to use one.

Content

  1. What is a RACI matrix?
  2. The advantages and disadvantages of a RACI matrix
  3. How to create a RACI matrix
  4. When is a RACI matrix useful? When isn’t it?
  5. Combing RACI with OKR
  6. RACI matrix FAQ

What is a RACI matrix?

A RACI matrix, or RACI chart, is a simple spreadsheet that is very popular in the field of project management. The acronym stands for:

  • Responsible 
  • Accountable
  • Consulted
  • Informed

With help from the RACI matrix, all project participants and their tasks, milestones and decisions can be clearly listed throughout the project. The RACI matrix is meant to facilitate communication within the teams and make workflows run more smoothly.

The meaning behind the letters

When creating a RACI matrix, those involved in the project are assigned a letter: R, A, C or I. This indicates how their tasks and responsibilities are divided. 

R for Responsible: This person or group of people is responsible for completing a specific task.

A for Accountable: This person delegates the respective tasks and ensures they are correct.

C for Consulted: These people provide input and feedback for specific project tasks that directly influence their own responsibilities.

I for Informed: These people are informed about progress and completion of projects, but are not direct decision-makers within the process. Most often, this is assigned to those in management positions.

The advantages and disadvantages of the RACI matrix

Using a RACI matrix can have a variety of impacts on a company’s internal process, which can have both advantages and disadvantages.

The most obvious advantage is that the responsibilities within a project are clearly shown. In addition, the RACI matrix can be flexibly adapted to different projects and can eliminate uncertainties. It also makes it more difficult for individuals to duck or shift responsibilities since conflicts regarding those responsibilities no longer arise. As a result, decisions can be made more quickly and engagement and motivation increases. Transparency regarding task responsibilities creates commitments and leads to better results. Plus, the stress and miscalculations of employees and time resources can be recognized early on and corrected.

As simple and clear as the RACI matrix is, it can also become confusing very quickly if too many tasks or employees are listed. The maintenance of the chart also takes time if tasks, goals or similar aspects are changed throughout the project. As a result, the upkeep of the matrix can quickly drain resources.

How to create a RACI matrix

There are not too many steps—five to be exact—involved in successfully creating a RACI matrix. 

In step one, you identify all roles or individuals taking part in the project. In this case, you can choose whether you would like to name the role (e.g., Graphic Design) or use the person’s name (e.g., Daniel). Both options have their advantages. If you use the role, for example, the table does not have to be redesigned if someone leaves the project. The role is simply reassigned.

In step two, you identify the tasks and results within the projects. Be careful not to subdivide the tasks too granularly. This can make the matrix very extensive and confusing.  

In step three, it is time to go through each task and assign it to a specific person. Every person in the matrix should be assigned to one of the categories. Make sure the responsibility “Accountable” is only assigned to one role or person. If several people are delegating and controlling, responsibilities tend to be pushed off to the side.

Step four is one of the most important. In this step, you discuss decisions and task assignments with your team. It is essential to involve the entire team in this step and discuss each task. This way, any mistakes or incorrect assignments can be discussed and settled before the project starts.

Step five deals with the project while it is in progress. Always keep an eye on the RACI matrix and always refer to the chart when assigning tasks. Continually keeping all tasks and roles up to date is also a part of this step. At the end of the project, you can evaluate how well the assigned individuals or roles performed. Valuable insights can be gained from this, including:

  • Is it necessary to have so many people involved in the project?
  • Did everyone complete their tasks?
  • If yes, how well? If not, why?
  • Were all individuals informed equally well and in a timely fashion?

When is a RACI matrix useful? When isn’t it?

Can a RACI matrix be used for any project? Unfortunately not. It depends on the complexity of the project and how far along it is. In some cases, introducing such a matrix can actually slow down or block progress.

If a project is at an advanced stage, it can be especially problematic when a matrix like this is suddenly introduced and tasks are redistributed. The RACI matrix is most effective when it is introduced directly at the beginning of a project. Agreeing upon the responsibilities before a project starts can prevent confusion and ambiguity regarding tasks later on.

Combing RACI with OKR

Can a RACI matrix be integrated into today’s much-used agile processes? While the structure and approach of this model for role clarity may not seem agile and flexible at first glance, it actually does combine well with other methods, such as OKR.

OKR is a holistic goal-setting method for all organizational levels of a company. The abbreviation OKR stands for Objectives, the value proposition for internal and external customers, and Key Results, the measurements for whether the respective value proposition was achieved.

The RACI matrix can be helpful in achieving the various goals set when working with OKRs. The concepts of “Responsible” and “Accountable” play particularly important roles here. If specific goals are defined for a team using OKS, the RACI matrix can help divide the tasks and responsibilities in a clear way. In this way, there are no overlaps in the work process, minimizing duplicate work and wasted time. In addition, only one person is assigned responsibility for each Objective and its Key Results, and can change them when necessary. Although the RACI matrix may seem outdated at first, it can be a very helpful tool within agile formation processes.

What that means in practice

If an organization uses OKRs, then the RACI matrix is suitable for the operational implementation of OKRs. Using the chart, OKR owners, Key Result owners and initiative owners can be determined. The OKR owner is responsible for ensuring the overarching goal (Objective) is achieved. The individual Key Result owners are in place to monitor the metrics (Key Results) that reflect the success of the Objectives and ensure their progress by providing advisory support to the initiative owner. The initiative owner, in turn, oversees and works on the tasks (initiatives) that could potentially have positive impacts on the Key Results.

The RACI matrix can also provide holistic support when carrying out an OKR process.

OKR process
tasks
Team Leads Teams Coaches Program Leads Leadership
Effectively anchor the OKR process and integration into adjoining processes C I R A / R C
Evaluate and improve OKR process C C R A I
Update progress of team OKRs R R A I C
Ensure quality of team OKRs C C R A I
Set org priorities C I I A R
Eliminate goal achievement blockers A / R R I I C

OKR roles: Program Leads refers to the group of people within the organization who, together with Leadership, are responsible for the OKR rollout and Coach community. Coaches are multipliers for the OKR process and support the teams and Team Leads throughout the entire cycle (e.g., by facilitating OKR workshops).

OKR Guide

RACI matrix FAQ

What is the RACI matrix?

A RACI matrix is a simple spreadsheet that helps all participants of a project to clearly list the tasks, milestones and decisions made throughout a project.

What does RACI stand for

The acronym RACI stands for Responsible, Accountable, Consulted and Informed. “R” refers to the person or group of people assigned to complete a specific task. The “A” refers to the person who delegates and ensures the correctness of the respective tasks. “C” refers to the person providing input and feedback for specific tasks because the respective task has direct influence on their own work. “I” refers to the people who are informed about the progress and completion of the project. These individuals do not directly make decisions within the process.

Is a RACI matrix always useful?

A RACI matrix should always be used before a project starts, as introducing one in the middle of the project can lead to confusion. In addition, you should ensure that only a limited number of roles and tasks are added to the matrix. Otherwise, they can quickly become unclear. This means RACI is not suitable for particularly large or complex projects.

Is RACI part of agile?

The RACI matrix can be wonderfully integrated into agile processes. It is perfect in combination with the goal-setting framework OKR when used to clearly divide responsibilities and roles for various Key Results.

How do I create a RACI matrix?

To successfully build a RACI matrix, you should follow five steps.

In the first step, you should identify all roles or people and, in the second, identify the tasks and results within the project. In the third step, you should assign the tasks to the individual people or roles and, in the fourth, discuss everything with the team before starting. The fifth step takes place throughout the project. In this step, the matrix should be constantly monitored and conclusions should be drawn for incorporation into the next RACI matrix planning.