The RACI+F Matrix

26 June 2012

Christophe Le Coent
Experis (freelance)

We can all agree that shared responsibilities are important on a project, but we should also have clear accountability. Someone must ultimately be answerable for the correct and thorough completion of the deliverable, and that should be a unique individual. In an Agile world, some companies still make use of project managers, with their role slowly shifting toward Agile coaching (if they haven't decided to become a product owner or a ScrumMaster). The project manager can help in scaling Scrum activities (in that case aiding the chief product owner).

Quite quickly, then, confusion may arise about who is responsible for what, and clarification is required — especially for the project manager, who may be asking, "What is my role in Scrum?" As described in Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard, by Chip Heath and Dan Heath, you must give the "rider" clear direction (and they like checklists) so that it can steer the elephant (your emotional side). In other words, sometimes you have to clearly state what people are accountable to and responsible for.

To address this reality, we decided to have a simple document that would describe roles and responsibilities for functional manager(s), ScrumMaster, product owner, Scrum team, and the project manager. But a list was not enough: We wanted clear accountability. Hence a RACI matrix seemed a nice way to clearly state who is uniquely accountable for what (RACI standing for "responsible, accountable, consulted, informed"). We had to twist the RACI matrix, though, because we wanted to highlight the fact that for some activities, facilitating/coaching was also a role. Hence we created RACI+F matrix. And in the Agile spirit of "individuals and interactions over process and tools," we thought that if we had to create such matrix and get buy-in, we would need to involve people and find a collaborative way to create it — in other words, use Planning Poker.

Using Mike Cohn's Planning Poker rules, we created cards with the letters R, A, C, I, or F on each. We discussed who, be it functional manager(s), ScrumMaster, product owner, Scrum team, or project manager, should be Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed, and/or should Facilitate activities during a Scrum project. The roles cover specific activities:

  • Ensure consistency of Scrum practices across teams
  • Provide vision and goal for the product
  • Provide resources with the right skills and mind-set
  • Prioritize and manage the product backlog
  • Remove impediments
  • Manage the release train
  • Make sure Scrum practices are used and improved within the team
  • Create, apply, and continuously improve the definition of done
  • Report on time to management
  • Define acceptance criteria
  • Write acceptance tests
  • Ensure quality of the product
  • Manage risks
  • Approve user stories (user stories that meet the acceptance criteria)
  • Decide on release date and goal

Here is the RACI+F matrix we came up with:

 

Interestingly enough, as project management responsibilities were shared by the Scrum team, ScrumMaster, and the product owner, it became clear during our discussions that the role of the project manager was more about facilitating and coaching than anything else. Creating this RACI+F matrix also allowed the team participants to spend some time reflecting on and better understanding the roles across an Agile organization. Aligning our thoughts was a constructive exercise.

What happened next?

It didn't take long to find "riders" asking what they were responsible for and then saying, "Now it's clear to me!" — after weeks or months spent wondering what their role was. Our tech leads and engineers in particular wanted to know what was expected from them.

We also added this matrix to our project plans, making stakeholders now clearly accountable and responsible for activities. As we were using a stage-gate model of project management, milestone reviews provided the opportunity to make people aware of their responsibilities and educate them about Scrum, since they had to sign off on the project plans.

We found that, beyond meeting our initial goal of stating clear accountability, the RACI+F matrix helped us align our thoughts and educate and guide people across the organization. As we continue to use RACI+F, it occurs to us that perhaps one overall activity that could be added to the matrix is managing the project life cycle, from the Envisioning, Speculating, Exploring, and Adapting phases to the Closing phase (as described by Jim Highsmith).

 

Author's note: My thanks to contributor Emilia Ipate, who helped with this article.


Opinions represent those of the author and not of Scrum Alliance. The sharing of member-contributed content on this site does not imply endorsement of specific Scrum methods or practices beyond those taught by Scrum Alliance Certified Trainers and Coaches.



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Comments

Alan Dayley, CSM,CSPO, 7/6/2012 10:52:47 AM
"Someone must ultimately be answerable for the correct and thorough completion of the deliverable, and that should be a unique individual." So we are supposed to be a team but only one person is accountable for the deliverable? As long as that is true, becoming a high performing team will be hard!

Ugh, no.

In Agile we talk about emergent design and emergent architecture of the products we create. We talk about how the customer needs to interact with the Product Owner and developers every day. We insist on communication all the time and getting things completely done on a regular basis.

Why don't we let team, organizational and work structures also emerge based on need and communication? Are we really so used to being "a resource with a specific skill" that we can't imagine not being told what our boundaries are?

Team Member: "Oh good, I don't have to worry about the vision, the chart says that's the Product Owner's job."

Functional Manager: "The release is not the right thing. Who can I blame... er... hold accountable? Oh, the Project Manager has that Responsibility!"

I can see this chart MAYBE be helpful to an organization used to enforced role boundaries. It MIGHT help such an organization at least get started with Agile. But there are better ways of showing a team how to work together than just giving them different RACI+F boundaries to follow!

This thing is an impediment to the creation of a self-organizing team! VP: "You are Agile now. Self-organize according to this chart."
Alan Dayley, CSM,CSPO, 7/6/2012 10:53:46 AM
(The above comment had paragraph breaks and was readable when I clicked the "Add Comment" button.)
Mike Dwyer, CST,CSP,CSM,CSPO,REP, 7/10/2012 5:01:23 PM
There are a couple thoughts that this article brings up. First, RACI is a team function not assignable noose to an individual. What you have done with this is to obviate some of the most critical aspects of Scrum's notion of self-organization, and self-respect, and self discipline to make it fit into the ancient and outdated notion of individual accountability. The most grievous blow you make to scrum is the value of failure and learning from it by the team. I would suggest that you return to a much more team driven model and look into the scrum team charter where everyone takes responsibility for delivering outcome, respecting the team members and themselves.
The second, more visceral response I have to RACI is from my 40+ years watching RACI Sessions become lists for who is going to take the blame for the failure. BULL. No one person delivers a user story, a goal, or a misson, or a sprint update. You are better to do what the slaves did when the Roman's asked which of them was Spartacus - they all stood and said they were.
Rahul Jain, CSM, 7/13/2012 7:56:46 AM
Though RACI might go against the tenets of Scrum I think there is at times implied RACI matrix that exists. For example the responsibility of completing UAT should be with the customer and Scrum Team should facilitate. Scrum team should not be held accountable for something that is beyond their control(Team could try hard but it can push only to a certain extent).
Christophe Le Coent, CSM, 7/20/2012 6:26:48 AM
Thanks for your comments: you may find this blog quite interesting: http://www.mountaingoatsoftware.com/blog/the-fallacy-of-one-throat-to-choke

As said in the article, we needed clear accountability (this was business driven as we had a clear lack of accountability [following people being laid-off). We treated scrum teams as an entity.
Shared responsibility beyond scrum teams is a great and a challenging goal: having clear accountability was a stepping stone for us to turn around the business.

Beyond scrum, there is the business, profits and loss, lay-offs... Agile coaches cannot separate themselves from the business and sometimes short-term constraints mean you keep long term direction but take a smaller step forward to achieve your ultimate goals. "Deviate" from scrum to get business buying in scrum is not always evil and can save people's jobs.

Rahul: yes indeed = the idea of using the matrix was in a very specific context!
Mario Cueva, CSM,CSPO, 10/17/2013 8:35:17 PM
I know i am late to this discussion but i must say regarding the comments made here, that to label Chris' RACI chart as 'evil' is very short sighted. If there was no need assign roles and responsibilities, then we might as well throw a handful of people into a pit, give them a task and say, ‘here self-organise’. If you were to do this you would see natural ascendants and designations of roles and responsibilities within the team otherwise the task will not be achieved – and anyone who watches reality TV would quickly point out that without a designated arbitrator, individuals with strong control tendencies will typically clash to the detriment of the task at hand. The Scrum Primer defines roles and high level responsibilities (which acts an arbitrator), albeit I don’t agree with some of the contents of Chris’ matrix, it sounds like it served him well for his purposes and I see value in it as a communication tool. Additionally, RACI charts are a good quick reference guide to roles and responsibilities for ultimately, if its everyone’s responsibility, then it is no one’s fault when it all goes wrong – and yes, we instigate into our Scrum teams collective ownership, but if you need a RACI chart to solve arguments and disputes of this nature, then you have deeper issues to deal with in the first place.
Mario Cueva, CSM,CSPO, 10/17/2013 11:18:45 PM
I know i am late to this discussion but i must say regarding the comments made here, that to label Chris' RACI chart as 'evil' is very short sighted. If there was no need assign roles and responsibilities, then we might as well throw a handful of people into a pit, give them a task and say, ‘here self-organise’. If you were to do this you would see natural ascendants and designations of roles and responsibilities within the team otherwise the task will not be achieved – and anyone who watches reality TV would quickly point out that without a designated arbitrator, individuals with strong control tendencies will typically clash to the detriment of the task at hand. The Scrum Primer defines roles and high level responsibilities (which acts an arbitrator), albeit I don’t agree with some of the contents of Chris’ matrix, it sounds like it served him well for his purposes and I see value in it as a communication tool. Additionally, RACI charts are a good quick reference guide to roles and responsibilities for ultimately, if its everyone’s responsibility, then it is no one’s fault when it all goes wrong – and yes, we instigate into our Scrum teams collective ownership, but if you need a RACI chart to solve arguments and disputes of this nature, then you have deeper issues to deal with in the first place.
Fabrice Aimetti, CSM,CSPO, 12/10/2013 5:07:22 AM
Hello Christophe, I have translated into french your RACI+F matrix and I’ve well understood that it is an example of what a collaborative workshop between the different actors shall produce :)
http://agilarium.wikispaces.com/Matrice+RACIF
Damien Cuvillier, CSM, 2/19/2014 9:03:19 AM
Hello Fabrice & Christophe.

Really interesting key document.

I've looked for a RACI about Scrum events. As I did not find anything really easy to use, I wrote it.

I've published a french & english version. Any comment/tip on it ?

http://www.damiencuvillier.com/doc/agile/RACI%20SCRUM%20FR.png
http://www.damiencuvillier.com/doc/agile/RACI%20SCRUM%20EN.png

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