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The problem with RACI: Linking a workflow diagram with RACI roles

RACI Russian Nesting DollsI stumbled across a terrific blog tonight that I want to point people towards, called “RACI Matrices: How Difficult Can It Be? The author’s answer is … very difficult!

One reason I loved this blog is because it acknowledges that actually doing a RACI matrix with your colleagues (as opposed to reading a white paper about it) can be really challenging. It’s worse than defining the rules of playing a really competitive game of Scrabble! How EXACTLY do you define the "A" and the "R," when in some cases they seem to overlap? (Please check out my earlier blog, “Defining the RACI codes: Understanding the Language”). Are you “allowed” to play more than one role? (The answer is yes.) And can you have more than one "A" for an activity? (The answer is no, but you can and often will have more than one "R.")

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But the main reason to check out this blog is because its author, Jeroen Bronkhorst, has done a terrific job of telling us how to extract RACI roles from workflow diagrams and think about the relationship between swim-lanes and RACI matrices.

Jeroen offers helpful guidelines for extracting a RACI matrix from a workflow diagram. He recommends that each swim-lane have a single “R” assigned to it. And he addresses the issue of “nested workflows” this way:

“A hierarchy of workflow diagrams (also called "nested workflows") also implies a hierarchy in roles (read: delegated accountability). E.g. at a top level workflow model the accountability for an activity can be assigned to the incident manager, while for a sub-activity within a lower level workflow model accountability is assigned to the first level support role.”

This addresses what I call the “Russian Doll” nature of RACI charting—at every level there can be a new "R" and a new "A" so part of the skill of applying the tool has to do with choosing which perspective you want to use.


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RACI Solutions has been helping organizations across the globe utilize the power of RACI to transform the dynamic of cross-functional teams since 2007. Whether you are new to RACI or have used it for years, we can help.

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Topics: RACI, RACI Matrix, RACI Roles and Responsibilities