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RACI Matrix: Solve the People Problem in Strategy Execution

RACI Matrix

Used correctly, a RACI Matrix creates clear roles for strategy execution, improving both accountability and speed of execution for your company. RACI 2.0 helps you avoid common people pitfalls in strategy execution—and with DecideAct software, RACI can now even be digitized.

Peter Bregman writes in Harvard Business Review: “However hard it is to devise a smart strategy, it’s ten times harder to get people to execute on that strategy. And a poorly executed strategy, no matter how clever, is worthless.”

Strategy consultants often ignore the execution phase because it’s not a strategy challenge per se, but a human one. To deliver on your strategy, people must be clear about their roles. What is each company leader expected to contribute to the strategy’s execution? How aligned are your divisions around high-priority actions? What do you do when someone drops the ball? How do you resolve disagreements?

A successful Strategic Execution Management (SEM) system must be clear about who’s responsible for each piece of the plan and who has decision-making authority. It should also indicate who to consult for advice, and who to inform about any changes. RACI 2.0 is the tool that achieves such clarity—and now you can build your RACI matrix into the DecideAct platform.

What does RACI stand for?

RACI is an acronym used by millions of companies all over the world to define roles in project management. It stands for responsible, accountable, consulted, and informed.

The flexibility of the RACI Matrix helps you define how people, teams, and departments should interact. It allows you to:

  • plan key activities
  • identify key decisions
  • assign accountability and authority
  • assign sponsorship

A RACI Matrix clarifies responsibilities and authority for your strategy execution.

Learn the 5 RACI 2.0 codes and use them as a language to strengthen strategy execution.

RACI codes definition:

RACI Matrix Codes

Check out this whitepaper and learn more about RACI 2.0

Why use RACI 2.0 for strategy execution?

Most organizations and leaders find it difficult to execute their strategies. There are many reasons, including:

  • Strategic ambitions aren’t sufficiently broken down into tangible, specific actions that can easily be followed up on.
  • Assignments are unclear and individual accountability undefined. No one is clear about who’s accountable for each deliverable.
  • Tracking and monitoring aren’t done consistently, precisely, or in real time.
  • C-level management loses track of progress of strategic initiatives by using poor monitoring tools.
  • Cross-functional teams are dysfunctional because decision-making authority is unclear, which is alarming since most new strategic initiatives must be delivered cross-functionally.
  • Because of this ambiguity, decisions about new priorities or course corrections are made too slowly to keep up with market developments.
  • Adaptations to new market needs and disruptive industry trends aren’t made in time to exploit new business opportunities.

Most of these reasons for failing in strategy execution can be traced back to people and roles—exactly the problem that RACI 2.0 solves.

Using a RACI Matrix can therefore help clarify the roles and responsibilities involved in strategy execution, which in most cases are foundational for achieving the desired strategy.

People pitfalls in strategy execution

RACI 2.0 addresses several people pitfalls in strategy execution:  

  1. You’re unclear about who should be doing the work 

Once an R-Prime role is assigned, it becomes easy to understand who is accountable for getting the work done. Although many people might collaborate to execute part of your strategy, the R-1 owner ensures that the work is well-orchestrated and on time. This avoids the problem of blurred accountability where, in spite of duplicated efforts, nothing really gets done. 

  1. Cross-functional work breaks down because too many people want to make decisions

We live in two different worlds inside our organizations. The first is the formal hierarchy, where we report to a boss and others report to us. In this world, planning, evaluation, and budgeting happen; this vertical structure is primary. The second world is one we create for project teams to cut across the silos of roles and departments. This is the world of cross-functional work. This is the horizontal structure, and most of us live in both places at once.

Sometimes our strategy execution teams (and their leaders and sponsors) are unclear about how much authority they have. Should they offer recommendations to management? Do they have the power to make decisions? Do they meet only to give advice or share information? It matters—because when there’s confusion and ambiguity, there’s wasted time, energy, and talent.

Vertical Structures RACI Matrix

Cross-functional teams working horizontally may suffer from too many decision-makers. If the head of every department represented on the team must sign off on every decision, your strategy execution will stall indefinitely.

Horizontal Structures RACI Matrix - 1

  1. Vague deadlines for strategy execution

RACI 2.0 improves on the original tool by letting you add deadlines to assignments, as well as see what are your team members accountable for. With DecideAct, you can easily pivot from a project overview to the status of any team or individual.    

  1. Blurred vs. single-point accountability

One mistake we often see in strategy execution is thinking that collaboration means everyone doing everything together. In reality, this just creates a confusing mess. (Mess, as defined by Russell Ackoff, is a technical term; see Taming Wicked Problems.) The more complex the project, the less successful this approach will be.

It’s a project management axiom that well-designed systems assign accountability for a single action to a single person or entity. This is single-point accountability. If there’s a breakdown, it’s easy to trace it to the source. It also gives the person a sense of ownership over their role in organizational goals. 

All well and good, but theoretical. In truth, the more complex your organization and the more collaborative your work, the more difficult it becomes to assign this single-point accountability. (Most of our clients fall into this category.) Strategy execution is by definition complex—and when complexity rises, accountability often falls. It’s still important to assign single-point accountability wherever possible. When people are clear about their role and how they contribute, collaboration becomes even more powerful.

RACI 2.0 clearly defines an R-Prime role (RP or R-1) to ensure that each deliverable has one person primarily responsible for it. R-Prime team members might receive help from collaborators or delegate the work, but they always retain their single-point accountability for the results.

  1. You’ve defined WHAT but not WHO

We might spend too long defining what a team is doing and not enough defining each team member’s role. Do you expect a particular team member to contribute work to the project (the R role)? Is another there to contribute expertise (the C role)? If they attend meetings and offer opinions, but don’t contribute any work between meetings, they likely see themselves in a C role. If they’re only there to absorb information, they have an I role.  

All team members must know their level of authority, especially if they are there to represent their own department. Consider an IT team member who’s part of a cross-functional team, for example. Does she attend meetings only to observe? Is she there to offer advice? Can she commit IT resources to the team?

There are three levels of authority in cross-functional efforts:

Observer – The lowest level of authority. This person’s role is to bring information back to their department.

Representative – The most common role, but often poorly understood and executed. This person’s role is to bring their department’s point of view to the group and then report on the group’s work back to their own department. They run a kind of shuttle diplomacy between the project team and their superiors. Done correctly, the representative aligns the group’s work with their department so there are no surprises later.  

Delegate – The highest level of authority. A delegate can commit resources from their own department to a cross-functional team without asking permission first.

How to start using a RACI Matrix in your strategy execution?

Many companies already use the RACI Matrix to manage their most complex projects, so applying it to strategy execution is relatively easy. DecideAct also has training resources to help you get up to speed with RACI 2.0. Combining your DecideAct SEM platform with RACI gives your organization the advantage it needs in today’s global economy!

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