The Buck Stops – Where?

By Cindy Vallance @cdvallance

In my last blog, I discussed the importance of understanding different roles within a project. This blog takes that thinking to the next level of detail. Those who use formal project methodologies such as PRINCE 2 undoubtedly understand the value of responsibility charting. It should be stated that this blog will not provide that level of formality or detail. Rather, it simply serves as a broad introduction for getting further clarity on how roles and responsibilities fit together to accomplish tasks.

In the RACI process, generally four responsibilities are defined for each task and incorporated into a matrix framework. Common terms used in this process are: Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, and Informed, although many variations of this model exist and many more initials can be added to the acronym depending what Guide to… you choose to read. We will keep it simple.

Responsible
Those who do the work to achieve the task. At least one role must be responsible for each task.

Accountable
This is the role that is ultimately answerable for the appropriate completion of the task, and is the one who delegates the work to those responsible. There must be only one accountable role specified for each task or deliverable.

Consulted
Those whose opinions are sought, typically subject matter experts; and with whom there must be two-way communication.

Informed
Those who are kept up-to-date on progress, often only on completion of the task or deliverable; and with whom there is generally one-way communication.

Often the role that is accountable for a task or deliverable may also be responsible for completing it. Outside of this exception, it is generally recommended that each role take on, at most, just one of the participation types for each task. Where more than one participation type is shown, this may mean that further clarification is needed.

There is also a distinction between roles and people: a role is a descriptor for a set of tasks and may be performed by many people; similarly, one person can also perform many roles.

As mentioned previously, all too often we gather together and simply begin the work at hand. While not getting caught up in formalisation and documentation for their own sake, using some techniques for clarifying roles can provide a useful framework for any type of group working.

The benefits are many in using the role clarifying techniques discussed in this and last week’s blog, including:

Helping group members understand their roles and responsibilities

Clarifying interdependencies between roles

Raising awareness of the significance of contributions

Helping to balance workloads

Promoting acceptance of the structure and systems needed for the project’s success

Serving as a way in to engage in constructive conflict management if this should occur.

Clarification of roles and responsibilities will benefit the entire project and its group members since everyone will be clear on where they fit within the whole and can work together towards the vision, purpose and objectives that have been established.

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