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How large should a RACI chart be, anyway?

Responsibility cartoonThe other day I read a frustrated Tweet from a project manager, who said, "I just saw a five page RACI chart - shoot me now!" Particularly in IT project management, where the number of steps to be covered can be many hundreds long, these charts can get awfully long.  The main purpose of using RACI in these applications is to be clear about who has the R -- the responsibility for doing the work of a particular step. 

But for most applications, it's worth remembering the good practice recommended by the Project Management Institute in its PMBOK.  Restrict your RACI charts to 8-10 project activities.  This kind of RACI is a much more manageable size.  

How can you keep a RACI chart this small and still have it be useful?  There are a number of ways to do it:

1.  GO UP A LEVEL...  Since you can put groups or departments into a RACI chart, don't try to list every single individual who is going to be involved.  Instead list a group or a department.  Who has the R for contacting the customers?  Marketing.  


2.  CREATE MORE THAN ONE RACI...  If a high level chart gives you a general division of labor by department,  then turn around and create more specific RACI charts for the discrete activities you need.  In this example, "Contact Customers" could break down - in a separate RACI - to a more granular set of 8-10 activities with different people involved.

3.  CREATE A SERIES OF RACI CHARTS, IN A SEQUENCE...  Another way of carving up a complex task is to chunk it up into time periods.  Just create a RACI chart for the work that needs to get done in the next 2-3 weeks, for example.  Once that phase is behind you, do another one for the next set of activities.  

Remember that cognitive science has proven that even the smartest human beings can only hold 5-7 things in their minds at the same time -- that means we should try to keep our RACI charts simple enough to remember.  

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About RACI Solutions

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.

Today’s business environment is complex – you may be contending with matrix structures, rapid growth, mergers, multiple locations, virtual employees, and/or digital transformation. 

As a result, project teams can get stuck. Let us help you! If you need to learn RACI, we offer train-the-trainer materials and custom workshops. We can help you create RACI super-users. If you already use RACI or another decision matrix, we offer programs that help you become skilled at working across functions – an effective horizontal leader. We help project teams tune up their performance. We help organizations streamline their decision-making. 

Our team is comprised of expert consultants, trainers, and facilitators, who can help your teams and their leaders achieve a seamless level of collaboration.

Topics: RACI, RACI Matrix, RACI Template

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