Good project leadership isn’t about yelling orders or ruling with an iron fist. You don’t inherently know more than your team or organization — it isn’t a Little League game.
The key to good project leadership is involving the right people in the right way. Give everyone that matters a chance to influence the project — a little push in the right direction.
To do that, you need to give everyone with a stake in the project the right level of access and responsibility.
That’s where the RACI model comes in. It helps you break down the different stakeholder roles and ensures a healthy management environment.
In this guide, we’ll cover what the RACI model is, why it’s important, when to use it, and how to implement it the right way.
What is the RACI model?
The RACI model — also known as the RACI matrix — is a tool to help you manage relationships with every key stakeholder.
The acronym RACI stands for responsible, accountable, consulted, and informed. It highlights the different states of responsibility a stakeholder has over a particular task or deliverable.
It’s typically implemented by color-coding each responsibility level and creating a simple table layout.
In this example, we’ve given every person some level of involvement to keep things simple. But when you make a real model for more than 4 people, there’s often more white space.
Nobody should have more than a single responsibility level for each deliverable or activity group in the RACI chart.In this example, we’ve given every person some level of involvement to keep things simple. But when you make a real model for more than 4 people, there’s often more white space.
RACI matrices have about as many names as they have use cases. Some project managers also use the term responsibility assignment matrix.
What are the RACI roles?
The RACI matrix roles highlight the level at which a stakeholder or team member is involved with a particular task.
- Responsible: a manager or team member who is directly responsible for successfully completing a project task.
- Accountable: the person with final authority over the successful completion of the specific task or deliverable.
- Consulted: someone with unique insights the team will consult.
- Informed: a client or executive who isn’t directly involved, but you should keep up to speed.
There are also variations on RACI that add additional roles to the mix.
RASCI adds the 5th level, support, to the matrix. Supporters aren’t directly responsible but have something unique to bring to the table.
Think senior developer who works on another project that has unique experience working with APIs.
And that’s not the only alternative version.
- RACIQ adds a role for quality review and assurance.
- CAIRO adds an “out-of-loop” level to omit certain people on purpose.
RACI is the base level, the vanilla ice cream of responsibility matrices. Other versions add their own unique flavors — peanut butter, cookies, and more.
What’s the difference between RACI and RAPID?
While RACI is a method for assigning responsibility for select project tasks, RAPID is a framework for deciding responsibility for decision-making.
In terms of implementation, there are some similarities between the 2 models. But you use RAPID during meetings to structure discussions — not to guide a project over the long term.
It ensures that high-level decisions take place consistently through meetings. But once a team agrees to undertake a project, there’s only one category for responsibility.
While making a key decision is a part of the project management process, it’s not the whole journey. RACI outlines who should do a task, who to keep in the loop, and who gets the final say. That’s the main difference.
Why is the RACI matrix important?
According to a 2020 study by Wellingtone, stakeholder engagement was the highest-value project management process. Not only that, it’s among the easiest and cheapest to implement.
The foundation of engagement is stakeholder analysis, figuring out where everyone fits into the project.
To understand why it’s so important, let’s take a look at the typical stakeholders in a large project:
- government regulators
- VIP clients and project sponsors
- company executives
- business analysts
- internal users of the product
By cooperating closely with regulators, you can avoid making costly mistakes. You reduce the risk of fines for breaking the rules, mandated redesigns to meet regulations, and more.
By including VIP customers in the process, you can ensure that you deliver what they want. Missing the mark after investing big in a new product can be enough to bankrupt a company.
Likewise, every other stakeholder is a crucial piece of the puzzle. Unless you figure out how to piece them together, you’ll drift off course.
That’s what RACI helps you avoid. With a concrete framework, you can manage all relationships appropriately, from start to finish.
When to use the RACI model and when to avoid it
Even though the RACI model is a useful tool for stakeholder management, that doesn’t mean you should use it for all projects all the time.
The deciding factors on when to use it are the scale of the project and the company structure.
Use the RACI matrix for:
- large-scale projects with clear-cut deliverables or workgroups
- organizations that have static roles and responsibilities
- projects with a wide variety of stakeholders for different aspects
- projects spanning multiple departments
- projects in highly regulated industries
Don’t use the RACI matrix for:
- small, single-department projects — it’s likely not necessary
- teams working with an Agile framework like Scrum
Organizational structure and RACI
In a traditional organization, RACI is a crucial tool to overcome functional silos and ensure collaboration.
In Agile organizations, cross-functional teams and collaboration is the default. So task responsibility depends on the employees’ initiative rather than a top-down decision.
For Agile teams, implementing a hard version of RACI will likely not be helpful, as teams should be self-organizing.
For example, in a Scrum team with daily standup meetings, in a sense, everyone shares the accountable role.
But you can still use a custom version to manage external stakeholders outside the team.
RACI model guidelines
RACI has a set of general guidelines to help you implement the method successfully:
- Only 1 accountable per task or deliverable.
- Only 1 responsibility type per person. If you don’t follow this, the RACI matrix will be more confusing than helpful.
- The accountable person needs to have the authority to help finish the task.
- Only the responsible and accountable roles are mandatory for every task. Not every task is complex enough to need outside input or warrant informing anyone else.
- Prioritize effective communication with the consulting person.
- Always keep all stakeholders informed. Even the lowest level needs to know about updates and changes to the project.
But even if you follow these rough rules, that doesn’t mean you’ll successfully manage your stakeholders.
Let’s look at some research into what that’ll take.
Research-backed tips for effective stakeholder engagement
A recent McKinsey study highlighted 3 key areas for engaging external stakeholders effectively — a corporate purpose, active use of technology, and organizational agility.
Rather than just focusing on a single aspect, you’ll get the best results from revamping your entire stakeholder infrastructure.
1. Map out deliverables and activity groups thoroughly before using RACI.
Don’t just jump immediately into assigning individual responsibilities. Start by consulting with subject matter experts and accurately mapping out the moving parts.
Only once you’ve got a clear outline of your project can you make educated decisions. That could be your Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) or a project roadmap.
Don’t invite your guest to the table until it’s set.
2. Don’t be afraid to give responsibility to “lower-level” staff.
Assigning the accountable role to a high-level executive or project manager for all tasks is a mistake. Since they have the final say on when a job is complete, you instantly create a bottleneck.
Instead, don’t be afraid to assign that role to senior staff on the project team itself. Who better to judge the doneness of code than a senior developer?
3. Standardize the approach across departments and locations.
While a single project team is good, stakeholder relationships don’t exist in a vacuum. Your whole organization must get on board to truly maximize the return on investment.
Make distributed responsibility and decision-making part of your corporate purpose. Everyone — from executive to intern — must be on the same page.
4. Use the right digital tools to implement RACI at scale.A written memo isn’t enough to standardize your methods and remove departmental silos. You need a modern infrastructure in place to achieve that. Use digital tools to build a platform for efficient RACI implementation and stakeholder management.
How to make the RACI model work for your business with monday.com
A regular project management app won’t help you beyond the small team that does the work.
monday.com’s robust integrations and extensibility mean you can build the exact platform you need.
Use our RACI matrix template and share it with the entire team.
Use our ready-made template to keep track of the RACI roles for all project activities. It breaks down the project into phases and then individual deliverables.
You can easily assign roles to internal users or guest users created for external stakeholders. All assigned roles will automatically get informed of status changes to the work item.
Customize the template to standardize the approach throughout your company.
Continually update and revise to reflect the real-time status.
An out-of-date RACI diagram helps nobody. Use board permissions to let responsible users directly edit the status of the row themselves.
But changing the statuses isn’t enough. You must also add in any new deliverables and work items if you change the project scope.
Make this a part of the change management process.
Keep stakeholders involved with shared boards and dashboards.
Don’t just assign stakeholders on the overall RACI board and think that that’s enough information.
With monday.com, you can easily give them viewer access to project and workflow boards. That way, they know the actual status of the project in real-time. They can then use that information to guide their decisions.
You can also inform stakeholders of crucial changes automatically with automations.
Our integrations with Slack, Microsoft Teams, and Gmail let you send messages based on status changes, new items, missed due dates, and more.
Remove data silos to keep everyone on the same page.
Getting everyone on the same platform, using the same customized templates is a good start.
But every department uses a different set of tools and applications.
Again, our robust integrations come to the rescue. And even if you use custom business apps, you can easily integrate them into monday.com using our API and 50+ pre-built adaptors.
Give stakeholders and team members the space they need to lead the way
With projects, you don’t want to grip on too tight to the steering wheel. Use the RACI matrix to assign responsibilities and keep stakeholders engaged throughout the journey.
It clarifies where everyone should focus their energy and makes it easy for people to lead the way in their area of expertise.
Use our RACI template and share it with your entire team to ensure everyone understands and deals with it accordingly.