Responsibility Allocation Matrix

Quick Summary
Screenshot RACI has it's place, but this Responsibility Allocation Matrix takes project responsibilities and commitments to a whole new level. Detailed and role-focused, it asks all project team members to consider their key project tasks, the inputs they need, and the outputs they expect to deliver, for a more complete look at the cross-functional dependencies in your plan.

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What this is

A detailed but relatively concise matrix outlining the primary responsibilities for the executives and the core and extended cross-functional team members connected to an individual project.

It is designed to be used during the planning phase to get all team members engaged in thinking through the work and dependencies involved in the project.

Why it's useful

It's one thing to know that Steve is responsible for Quality Systems on Project X; it's another to know exactly what Steve-or anyone else-thinks that means, and what it will take for him to meet his responsibilities.

Rather than focusing on simple "involved/not-involved" measures indicating where people fall in a project's decision structure, this matrix collects and shares a high-level view of project responsibilities to show how team members and their responsibilities impact each other. In addition to listing the three to five key cross-functional responsibilities, team members also indicate what inputs they depend on, and what outputs they are responsible for delivering to others. These three items-inputs, key responsibilities, and outputs-combine to create a more complete understanding of what is involved in project work, the dependencies, and the communication channels that may be required.

This document is especially important in getting all the functional groups identifying what cross-functional work is applicable to this project, which can help ensure that a full truly cross-functional end-to-end schedule is developed for the project.

How to use it

  • Review the example matrix on pages 4-10 for ideas on the level of detail you may want to include (or exclude) from your matrix.
  • Use the blank matrix on pages 2-3 to create a template appropriate to your project. Some projects may not include all of the roles indicated on this example; others may need several more that are not indicated. For example, construction projects may not include a Firmware/Software Leads and other IT-related roles, but may need rows added for Architect, Designer, Foreman, and other roles specific to the industry. Likewise, smaller projects may require fewer roles. Add, delete, and change roles as appropriate for your situation. Note: The matrix is role focused, not person focused. Include a row for each central project role, even if one person is filling two or more roles.
  • Have each person fill in the row for their role, indicating the 3-5 key cross-functional responsibilities they have to the project, and the inputs (dependencies) and outputs for each. For a small project, you may want to collect this information in a group meeting, but where more than a few people are involved you will probably want to collect the information separately and include it in the table. You may circulate the template among team members, or broadcast it and correlate input as it is returned.
  • Review the completed matrix at the next team meeting to be sure that all primary responsibilities are agreed upon and understood. Edit if necessary.
  • Once the team agrees on the responsibilities and dependencies outlined in the matrix, distribute it as part of the project documentation. You may want to include it in the project Communications Plan.
  • Refer to the matrix when the team is creating the project schedule. It is valuable as a reference for creating a full cross-functional schedule for the project, helping catch all that peripheral work that often doesn't make it into the official schedule but really is key work of the project. If something is listed as an input or output or core task in this chart, chances are it should show in the schedule as task or as a dependency to/from another group.
About the Author

Formerly VP of Program Management at Outride, a Xerox Parc spin-off, Kimberly Wiefling facilitated the establishment of a company culture there that still impacts those who worked with her. Kimberly's philosophy in a nutshell: "Business leaders need not choose between enabling a highly profitable business and a high quality of life for their people." With 10 years experience at HP and 5 years in Silicon Valley start-ups, she's been in a position to test that philosophy. Some of her favorite exploits include her work with Embedded Works, which became profitable in just 9 months with Kimberly as one of the two founding executives, and Elite Horse Clothing, founded in 2002 and still expanding with Kimberly's help.

Today, Kimberly is a keynote speaker and business leadership consultant, as well as a highly regarded workshop instructor with UC Santa Cruz Extension in the Project Management Certificate Program. In 2004 she helped establish the Management Institute of Leadership Excellence. She holds an M.S. in Physics from Case (in her words, the perfect preparation for her specialty of "tackling the impossible") and has facilitated leadership workshops all over the world, notably in Japan, Holland and Armenia.

To learn more about Kimberly and her work, visit Wiefling Consulting.

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