Keep Projects In Motion

The board of the fictional Anytown Literacy Volunteers (ALV) has approved a new project: launching a “Foods of the World” fundraiser in its community. The vision is to recruit students, volunteers, and area cultural groups to prepare and donate a wide assortment of ethnic foods and offer them to the public. ALV hopes to attract at least 10,000 visitors to the two-day festival, and raise at least $50,000 to help fund expanded English as a Second Language courses.

A management tool that will be highly useful to the ALV project team — and to any project team where multiple participants are involved — is the Responsibility Assignment Matrix (RAM), also known as a RACI matrix.

Who’s doing what?

The ALV leadership anticipates that all areas of its organization will be involved in the project — from operations employees, who’ll research possible venues and arrange for setup and cleanup, to the volunteer oversight staff, who’ll line up cooks and servers, to public relations employees, who’ll publicize the event throughout the surrounding communities, and to board members, who’ll secure donations from corporations to help defray costs.

In managing any project, the most important element is knowing who’s responsible for what. ALV decides to use a RACI matrix to sort out and assign people to project tasks. RACI stands for:

  • Responsible — Who is responsible for executing the task?
  • Accountable — Who has decision-making authority and approves the work?
  • Consulted — Who are the subject matter experts to be consulted?
  • Informed — Who needs to know about decisions or actions?

Individuals who are “consulted” differ from those who are “informed.” Two-way communication takes place with the former, while one-way communication is usually sufficient for the latter. ALV consults the leader of another nonprofit who held a vegetarian food fair for operational advice during the “Foods of the World” project. And the full staff is informed of the dates of the fest as soon as they’re pinned down.

What does the matrix look like?

The RACI matrix is typically created with a vertical axis (the left-hand column) of tasks and a horizontal axis (top row) of the roles in the execution of the task. For example:






Assigns dishes to volunteers Kelly, Jake Laurie Suri, Marcus Susan, Young PR


Another RACI matrix format is to identify the person or department in the heading and indicate their role in each task (R, A, C, I). You also may want to include completion dates for each task. And, if your organization is large, include the department name linked to each duty or the outside firm you hire.

Are people merely cogs?

As the RACI process moves on, managers should resist the temptation to treat employees involved in the project as mere cogs in the process. Employees tend to do their best work — and work most creatively — when what they’re doing is meaningful and connected to the larger goal. Returning to the example above, if your volunteers know generally how the money from the Foods of the World fundraiser will be used, they might be more enthusiastic about committing to make homemade dishes.

Keep everyone posted on the project’s overall progress toward its goals. And offer guidance when employees become stuck on a task. Last but not least, remember to give positive feedback as well as correcting and redirecting.

Keep it simple

Developing a simple matrix like RACI can clarify and expedite a complex project. People know what’s expected of them and communication is easier. Everyone can save time, for instance, because they’re not receiving excessive e-mails asking unnecessary questions about their duties.