Moving from RACI to RACIC

by Jamie Flinchbaugh on 08-18-20

Does everyone on your team understand their role? Do your partners and other functions know there? Does role ambiguity lead to either gaps or overlaps in work? Most of you answered yes, and you are not alone. 

Role clarity gaps are one of the easiest ways to drive waste into your organization. Without clear roles, standard work is very difficult. Problems are harder to solve. Decisions can be vague or delayed. And so on. 

A very common tool used, albeit poorly, to help solve this is the RACI chart. RACI standards for Responsible (doing the work), Accountable (for the outcomes of the work), Consult (check with them), and Inform (get to find out about the work). There are several problems that occur. The most common is crafting the RACI and then putting it away, not using it to drive the work. We include too many people in the Consult category often, which can slow down the process. We sometimes use the chart as a way to include people, so instead of minimizing how many need to be involved in the process, we start filling in blocks with letters and including everyone, and including them in multiple ways. 

You can attack those challenges head-on, but I believe there is a more effective countermeasure that gives the RACI, and ultimately the clear roles that come from it, both focus and meaning. We add a second C (that creates another problem, but more on that in a minute) to designate the Customer of the step, activity, or decision. 

The Customer is often included somewhere in the RACI, but it’s usually just as another Consult or Inform role. Either we are checking with the Customer, or we Inform them when the product (work, information, decision, etc.) is ready for their use. Now, this specifically applies to internal customers. When the customer is external, that is usually fairly obvious to everyone. But when it’s an internal customer, as most of our work produces something for others inside the same organization, we treat them like anyone else in the pursuit of clear roles. But….their role is DIFFERENT! 

Ensuring that the Customer is explicit keeps us focused on the why of the work. What is the need that we are filling? What is the value we are producing? Who needs the outcome of our work for them to be successful? We are doing all the work in a RACI just to produce work; we are doing it because someone needs it done for them to do their work. 

How does this help? Because when we make the Customer more visible, we make the why of the work more visible, and that will help with every other letter you complete on the RACI chart. If the role doesn’t help advance the why then it probably shouldn’t be included. 

What happens next? Well, the Accountable person should be having conversations with the Customer. What are they accountable for? It’s not themselves; they are accountable for all of the work delivering the needed value to that Customer. If the Accountable person isn’t clear on the Customer’s needs, and agree together on what is being delivered, then it is impossible for them to be truly accountable. 

Oh yeah, back to that extra C. I would prefer not to change the letters. We could use U for User, or R for Receiver (oops, already used that too). But they are the Customer. Let’s not distract from that key point. While I don’t know what the best solution is that, it’s not terribly hard to find something that works. Use a bold C, or a “star” icon, or use Cu for Customer and Co for Consult. Any of those can work, as long as you do not dilute the meaning and visibility of that customer. They are why the work exists.