A guide to RACI chart best practices (tips and benefits)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 19 May 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Project managers have a variety of tools at their disposal to help organise staff members and delegate tasks. A RACI chart is a useful tool that can track and clarify which team members are responsible for each task on a given project. As a project manager, using a RACI chart is an excellent way to set clear goals and expectations for your team and chart progress across a large project. In this article, we explore what a RACI chart is and how RACI chart best practices can help you to get the most out of your team.

What is a RACI chart?

It's important to know what a RACI chart is, to understand how to implement best practices in this area. A RACI chart is a chart that lays out the responsibilities that a project manager assigns to each member of a project team or task force. Not only does a RACI chart help managers keep track of which employees are responsible for which tasks, but it also clarifies these responsibilities among teams. This means that all team members have a clear understanding of their own responsibilities and which colleagues to contact to discuss other aspects of the project.

Following RACI chart best practices is an important aspect of keeping RACI diagrams clear and transparent to all staff members. A RACI matrix comprises two axes, an X-axis and a Y-axis. The X-axis lists the participants involved in the project, which can include internal team members and managers in addition to external parties such as sponsors and consultants. The Y-axis lists the main project tasks and deliverables.

Breakdown of RACI Chart

Using a RACI chart, multiple participants can share responsibility for a single task or managers can even separate single tasks into multiple phases or elements. Within each cell of the chart, one of the following designations indicates each participant's role in the task:

  • R (responsible): This indicates that this participant is responsible for completing the task. Usually, just one person is responsible for completing a single task.

  • A (accountable): This indicates that this participant is responsible for assigning the work and approving it before a manager can mark it as complete.

  • C (consulted): This indicates participants who are responsible for providing feedback or offering consultation on this task.

  • I (informed): This indicates participants who may not have direct involvement with the task but whom managers want to keep informed on its progress. This usually includes stakeholders.

A RACI project responsibility matrix is relatively quick and easy to put together. This is particularly true for project managers with experience working with these charts. For this reason, RACI charts offer a convenient and low-cost way of setting clear expectations for all participants in a project.

Related: How to be organised at work (plus benefits and tips)

RACI chart best practices for project managers

Using a RACI chart best practices can make managing a project with a large task force easier. Follow the RACI chart guidelines for the most effective practices below to ensure that your team gets as much value as possible from your RACI matrix:

Focus on key tasks and milestones

When you're deciding which tasks and activities to list on the Y-axis of your RACI chart, it can be tempting to include generic or administrative tasks such as scheduling meetings and compiling status reports. This could overburden your RACI chart and distract attention away from the most important tasks on the project that require immediate attention. Confine your RACI chart to project tasks and milestones that you need your team to complete to finish the project, as this helps keep everyone focused and on task.

Related: 13 milestones in project management (with definitions)

Align RACI chart tasks with your project plan

In addition to working from a RACI chart, it's important to have a project plan that sets out the various tasks required by the project and all of the deadlines and requirements of each phase of the project. Make sure that the deadlines and details of the tasks in your RACI chart align with the details included in your project plan. If these don't match it could cause confusion among team members and create project delays. Some types of project management software can help you maintain consistency between various project management documents and records.

Ensure that all participants understand their roles

A RACI chart is only effective if everyone participating in the project understands what each task involves. It's essential that your RACI chart includes some brief details clarifying the task. You can also make time to ensure that each participant understands exactly what's expected of them. This is especially important when considering the participants marked as 'R', responsible, for completing the task itself.

Keep RACI definitions close at hand

If you're new to the RACI system, the nuances of each assignment definition can be difficult to remember. The first few times you create a RACI chart, keep a copy of the RACI assignment definitions by your side. This ensures that you don't make any mistakes on your chart that could create confusion and delays if team members aren't clear on which items they're responsible or accountable for.

Assign only one accountable participant per task

While there is no strict limit on how many participants you can assign to 'R', it's important to ensure that you only assign one participant to the role 'A', accountable, per task. The accountable participant has the ultimate responsibility for making sure that completed work is of the standard of quality required. This also means that they have the final say on all big decisions relating to the task. It's crucial that only one participant is accountable for each task so that they can make important decisions quickly and without any conflict.

Make sure staff have an easy way to keep 'Informed' participants updated

If your RACI chart includes a lot of 'C' and 'I' roles, it's important to ensure that you have an easy way to keep these members informed. Keep contact details in an organised and easily accessible file so that anyone who may be responsible for contacting these participants can do so efficiently. It's also a good idea to clarify who's in charge of informing various participants. This is usually the project manager or other team leads.

Related: 12 ways to improve your manager communication skills

What are the benefits of using a RACI chart?

As a project manager, a RACI chart can help you streamline many of the tasks that a project entails while managing expectations and organising a team. There are several key benefits of using the RACI model, including:

  • Efficiency: RACI models are fast and easy to create, typically taking a matter of hours and encompassing all aspects of even large projects.

  • Clarity: A RACI chart clarifies any confusion over roles, including who's responsible for which task and who you can consult at any stage of the project.

  • Focus: A RACI model can help keep projects on task and ensure that small, easily missed responsibilities aren't forgotten.

  • Easy handover: If there's a possibility of project handover to another team or manager at some point in the project's life cycle, a RACI chart ensures that this goes smoothly. It acts as a single reference point for a new manager who requires an understanding of who's in charge of what.

  • Communication: This is one of few models that prioritises communication between participants and stakeholders using the 'Informed' role, which is a key element in the success of many projects.

Tips for creating an effective RACI chart

A RACI chart is easy to create for projects of any size. Follow the tips below when designing your RACI chart to follow RACI chart best practices and ensure that it's accurate and effective:

  • Meet with key stakeholders before listing RACI project tasks to ensure that tasks are correct.

  • List project tasks on the Y-axis of your chart, ensuring that each task is clear and well defined.

  • List project roles on the X-axis of your chart, which might include positions like project manager, technical architect and designer.

  • Assign RACI responsibilities to each role in the chart, ensuring that only one person is 'Accountable' per task.

  • Once you finish the chart, share it with participants and stakeholders and ask for feedback on it.

  • Be open to making small changes to your first RACI chart if team members or stakeholders aren't happy with your designations or if new tasks appear partway through the project.

Explore more articles