We were consulting to a high-growth company in San Francisco, and they were worried that adopting RACI would slow them down. They were concerned it was an overly bureaucratic tool, and most of them loved working there because of the company’s freewheeling, entrepreneurial spirit.
So, I wrote the slide shown here for them, and we talked through it. You certainly do NOT need to use the RACI tool all the time!
Use this checklist to determine when you DON’T need to use a RACI chart.
Ask yourself these questions:
Do you have a stable team where people have been working together for a while?
Most people sort out their roles and working relationships over time and arrive at a comfortable status quo. If your team has been together for a while and decision-making and accountability are going smoothly, you don’t need to RACI chart their work roles. But if the team has new members and people haven’t sorted out how to work together yet, that’s when a RACI conversation can be valuable.
Do people on my team have similar experience, background, and training (e.g., engineers, research physicians, salespeople)?
When people on a team have similar backgrounds and “speak the same language,” they usually can come to a good, informal understanding of how to work together. But if your team or project mixes people from different professional backgrounds, working informally won’t be as effective.
Does everyone speak the same primary language?
It’s easier to have misunderstandings when people are speaking different languages, literally, or if members of the team are speaking English as a second language. The beauty of RACI is that once you come to a shared understanding of the four RACI codes, communicating about role becomes very simple and clear. (Learn more about how to use the codes in “Defining the RACI Codes.”)
Is the team co-located?
When team members are in the same office and can have informal conversations to clarify work over the coffee machine, you may not need to have a formal RACI conversation. But if the team has members spread across different geographies—even different buildings—those informal mechanisms aren’t there to help. Sitting everyone down in the same room (even virtually) at the beginning of a project to sort out roles and work products using RACI can save a lot of misunderstanding.
Are we doing repeatable work we have done before?
If your team is doing repetitive work (e.g., a finance team closing the books and generating reports every month), chances are you have already figured out a clear set of roles to get the work done. If you are planning to change a process, then do have a RACI conversation about the changes. Otherwise, don’t bother.
Is the project almost over?
Applying RACI to a project that is almost over—for better or for worse—may not give you enough benefit. In this situation, you can consider using a RACI conversation to do an “after action” look back at what went well and what caused confusion.
This is what we ultimately did with our San Francisco client—we used RACI to look back at the organization of their national sales meeting, and that exercise created insights they want to apply to next year’s meeting. Using RACI to look back in this way was powerful.
Use this checklist to think through whether RACI will have any benefit for you. The more of these questions you answer “no” to, the more you can benefit from using the tool.
Now that you know when not to use RACI, take the free Role Confusion Quiz to see if it would be helpful to clarify roles on your teams.