RACI rarely works in matrixed teams

Organizational charts in highly matrixed environments look more like spaghetti than building blocks

Trying to seek order where there is none, seeking to understand ‘how it works’, is a fairly human reaction. For people working within matrixed organizations, it’s fairly natural, therefore, to try and map processes or structures.

But for most networked or matrixed organizations this is such a complex task that by the time you have finished the whole thing’s changed, and there are so many ‘ifs, buts and maybes’ that the whole thing becomes pointless.

One of the most commonly used tools by people trying to understand a matrix is RACI, a methodology which looks at who is Responsible, Accountable, Consulted and informed about any given project.

The Responsible person does the work  –   typically a single person (who may in turn have people responsible to them.

The A is for Accountable (sometimes Approver or Approving Authority are used) and is essentially the person who is answerable for delivery/non-delivery/

C is for Consulted (Some companies often use Counsel in place of consult) – the topic matter experts whose advice, expertise and experience feed into a project.

And I is for Informed – the people who need to know what’s happening.

This in turn becomes jumbled when mapping delegation/support. Some talk of RASCI, with the ‘S’ being ‘Support’ – the people who help complete the task, others replace the A for Accountable with A for Assists.

There are numerous other permutations, often when there are compliance issues at stake, but it’s probably worth stopping there. It’s irrelevant to this post.

RACI can be useful in defining a major project, but for many workers within a matrix, sitting and analysing all of this information for every activity will burn them out before they’ve started any productive work on any given day. Most operations don’t merit splitting responsible and accountable.

The first challenge is that sticking to a rigid methodology just isn’t feasible if the reason that the matrix structure was adopted – better use of specialist and limited resources, faster deployment –  is to materialize.

Often the RACI which seeks to bring clarity can raise so many questions that in itself it brings an unnecessary level of complexity.

The bigger challenge is accepting that you can’t always map what’s there.  In many departments in matrix organizations, there are so many permutations that trying to resolve the RACI could become a full time job in itself.

When we consider why the RACI methodology has been introduced – traditional hierarchies don’t adequately describe complexities – it becomes obvious why the reality fails: it seeks to be linear, when the reality is multidimensional.

The methodology is a good cue to thinking about who really needs information, but if formalising it takes longer than a couple of hours, it’s probably not worth the effort. The desire for certainty, for absolute clarity, is understandable, but living with ambiguity is part and parcel of modern working life, where flexibility  – and personal responsibility are the new work-life essentials.

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About the author:

Claire Thompson Claire has a background in PR and communications, and has worked in the UK and abroad for many years. Within Global Integration, she's the frontline for co-ordinating the blogging, social media, posting and general digital magic that team members ask for support with. It keeps her busy - she loves it! Google+ Profile: .

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