In project management, it’s key that every team member working on the project has clearly defined roles. RASCI (or RACI) is a responsibility assignment matrix, i.e. a table that combines the roles for a task and the people involved in the project.
Beyond keeping people accountable, RASCI / RACI also puts the project in perspective and allows team members to engage and consult the right people at the right time.
It helps everyone be a master of their time and feel in control of their share of the project.
Together, let’s see the different RASCI roles and how they apply in academia.
Definition of the roles in a RASCI
Responsible: executes the task | Person leading the task
Accountable: do the final sign-off | Person/people highly engaged in the task
Supportive: do the final sign-off | Person/people engaged in the task
Consulted: do the final sign-off | Person/people with limited engagement in the task
Informed: do the final sign-off | Person/people with no engagement in the task
Responsible and Accountable
Who is responsible to execute the task? Who gets the final sign-off?
Person/people most engaged in the task
Each task should have someone in charge to move a task along, even if it involves the work of several people. This person will execute the task and be considered responsible for it.
Now, the person who executes the task may not be the one who does the “final sign-off”, i.e. who determines whether the deliverable is acceptable (or needs more work) and the task is completed. The person or the people who do the final sign-off are considered accountable for the task and they decide whether the team can proceed to the next task.
One person can be both responsible and accountable for one task, but this distinction in roles can prove useful to respect the hierarchy in organizations.
The best example to illustrate this difference: when a researcher asks a research assistant to find key articles on a particular topic. The student is responsible for the task and will perform the article search and prepare a report on it, while the researcher is accountable and will review the articles found and provide feedback.
I recommend limiting the role of responsible to one person to avoid any confusion on who leads the task. Use the supportive role to highlight anyone else who needs to be involved in this task.
It’s also a good idea to limit the number of people accountable for a task to avoid conflicts in feedback and excessively long decision-making.
Who is expected to provide support?
Person/people engaged in the task (engagement defined by person responsible)
A task may need the coordinated work of several people. The person who is responsible will coordinate everyone’s effort and the people who are supportive will need to be available and contribute to the task as requested.
The supportive role applies well in the following situations:
- A team member provides feedback on a document (without contributing to decision or sign-off)
- An administrative assistant deals with the logistics of a task (booking a meeting room, fill out paperwork)
- A team member provides technical assistance
This option is often forgotten in newer versions of the responsibility matrix (ex: RACI in the Project Management Book of Knowledge or PMBOK), as it appears less well defined than the two previous roles. However, when a project requires that recurrent administrative tasks be performed, it becomes very handy.
Who must be consulted and provide input or feedback for this task?
Person/people with limited engagement in the task
Every academic project can benefit from other people’s expertise and perspective.
For instance, you are planning data collection in a remote rural community. You could consult another researcher who has either performed a similar type of data collection or one who has experience working in this particular rural community.
While the people consulted do not participate in the project’s decision-making process, they contribute to its deliverable.
Consulting other experts may take time or need some prep work. If it requires more than a simple email exchange or an informal chat, it can be a good idea to devote a whole task to consult these experts.
Who should know about the status of this task or about the expected deliverable?
Person/people with no engagement in the task
When working with sponsors and stakeholders outside the project team, it may be necessary (or courteous) to share with them specific deliverables as they are being developed and keep them in the loop with updates on the project’s progress.
Typically, this can either be done at specific time intervals (once every month) or before moving on to the next phase of the project.
See it at work
Let’s say we work with the following team:
- Gatien – principal investigator
- Michelle – co-investigator
- Emma – administrative assistant
- Samuel – student (research assistant)
First, the team wants to hold a brainstorming session at the research center. Gatien is responsible and accountable for planning the discussion with the logistical support of Emma. Other experts are also invited (consulted) to participate in the brainstorming session.
In the process of developing a protocol to collect articles for a literature review, Gatien will be responsible to set up the protocol document, to consult the librarians about the best keywords and databases to use, to consult with the team about the screening process, to submit the protocol for review to project advisors, and to give the protocol to Michelle who will then be responsible for collecting and screening the articles.
Under the supervision of Michelle (accountable), Samuel will be responsible for extracting the data from the articles. After this, Samuel will perform the descriptive analysis while Michelle will perform the trend analysis. Gatien is responsible for submitting all results for review to experts in the field before they are presented in the report.
Samuel wants to use his work experience and some of the results from the research in a capstone paper. In preparing a capstone paper, he is both responsible and accountable, while Gatien and the research team must be consulted regarding how the data can be shared.
A bit complicated at first, but that’s all you need to know to assign the tasks of your project!
Check out what Modus Operandi can do to help you manage your projects.