Off To The RACIs
©2020, George J. Irwin. All rights reserved.

One of the tools used in Black Belt Land, but which also has value outside of Lean Six Sigma, is called the RACI, which is an acronym for Responsible, Accountable, Consult and Inform. This is usually with respect to a process that needs improvement. The idea is to understand who participates where, and how. There are several different interpretations of this (and there’s “RASCI” which adds “Support” to the mix). This is mine.

There are templates available online, but it’s simple enough to build a matrix of rows and columns, with steps in the process along one axis and roles along the other. The intersecting boxes get an R, A, C, or I as appropriate.

Let me pause here to note my deliberate use of “role” rather than “person.” People can have different roles, sometimes multiple roles, which is OK. It’s also true that people leave jobs, get promoted, get reorganized, et cetera, which is why I don’t assign names to a RACI. This takes a little longer, but it’s worth the extra effort to think that way.

Although not first in the list—which would make it an “ARCI”—the Accountable role is “where the buck stops” – the role that gets the phone call, the one who misses the targets, the “one throat to choke.” I’m quite insistent that exactly only role only gets the Accountable “A”. If more than one role is accountable, there’s a problem: either it’s a “pass the parcel” situation or the process in scope might be too big.

Multiple roles can be and usually are Responsible. These are the roles that “get the work done.” A proliferation of Responsible roles is also a potential red flag. “Too many cooks spoil the broth” is not just applicable to cooking.

Roles which Consult are asked for advice and counsel about performing the process, but don’t actually do the mainstream tasks. An example here is a Finance representative who helps with P&L statements, or a role that supplies information when askes. I think of Consult roles as having a two-way conversation with one or more Responsible process participants.

Finally, there’s Inform. I call this a one-way communication, outbound from the process. Telling the next process in line that the output of this process is ready for handoff is an example of Inform. This can get a little bit tricky in that if there is an approval of sorts required, it’s more of a Responsible than an Inform or even a Consult. If a legal team member needs to sign off on a bit of paperwork, that makes that role Responsible for a part of the process.

The amount of effort required to complete a RACI is sometimes a data point in itself. I try to keep the process steps at a reasonably high level, with details going into, say, flowcharts. If the project team finds this a challenge, you’ve probably got some process issues to tackle. Ditto if there are completely blank rows or columns. If the Accountable role is so high in the organization that there’s no regular contact with the person in that role, that’s an issue. A RACI completed with consensus and little concern can be a predictor of successful improvements to come.

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