All acronym and no action? Make RASCI work for you

The most successful organizations know where they want to go and how they want to get there.

They keep their eyes on the prize and work together internally to reach well-defined and widely understood milestones in their movement forward. They also look back at regular intervals, and adjust their course to ensure they don’t veer too far afield. And they celebrate their accomplishments company-wide because everyone in the organization has contributed.

If this defines your organization, read no further.

If not, where do you start? How do you envision and then build the kind of organizational framework that supports forward momentum across all departmental boundaries?

Often, businesses look to ‘acronym’ activities for the answer.

RASCI is a good example. The model offers a matrix for decision-making that identifies the roles and responsibilities of key individuals and groups, ensuring that new initiatives are undertaken in an orderly, pre-defined way.

As it’s used today, a RASCI matrix outlines the five key roles necessary for project completion:

R: The individual or team RESPONSIBLE for the task(s) at hand.
A: The individual or team ACCOUNTABLE for the completion of the work.
S: The human and/or financial resources that will be SUPPORTIVE of the effort.
C: The expert(s) who offer CONSULTATIVE guidance to the team.
I: The person or party kept INFORMED of project progress, though not involved in the day-to-day.

There are many other acronym-ed models that businesses rely on to manage a wide variety of organizational tasks. Like RASCI, things like SWOT and OSTM analyses serve a useful purpose. Unfortunately, however, these methods are essentially discreet measures rather than actionable strategies. As a result, adherence to acronyms can often overshadow the human side of organizational growth.

Using the RASCI example again, what can actually end up happening within organizations leveraging this model is something like this:

R becomes a RUNNER. The individual or team is still responsible for completing the task at hand, but often at the whim of A, whose directives come directly from I.
A becomes an ACROBAT. This is a team leader who is held accountable but has little authority. This person twists and turns to get the job done based on the inspiration of leadership, but often without context, budget, or time.
S becomes the STANDBY. This resource may just be a junior team member who ends up owning a lot more of the work than anyone would like to admit because of other pressures on the Runner and Acrobat.
C becomes the COP. This member of the leadership team, who is not on the project team, is often called in based on previous experience to answer the really hard questions. But because this person is not accountable, he or she may provide direction without sufficient insight to really help the team succeed.
I, as aforementioned, is the INSPIRATION from on high. If the RASCI team succeeds, this person gets the credit, but not the blame if it fails.

How do you put acronyms to work?

If it seems like none of these acronyms are a fit for your complex, siloed, multidisciplinary, cross-functional organization, what is the solution? How do you find optimal ways of working that incorporate often-opposite points of view, focused on entirely different objectives, in a streamlined and efficient manner?

The answer is to recognize that the RASCI, and other acronyms, are only as successful as the organization and framework behind them. Each of the letters ends up meaning nothing without the right platforms and processes to enable, empower, and engage the people involved.

It is crucial to know who will work together to complete a task, but weeks of tweaking and adjusting titles and acronyms to appease everyone just gets in the way of the real work. Things like schedules, meeting protocols, tools, and templates have to be embedded across the organization and understood by everyone before the acronyms can be used effectively.

Listen, Learn, Cooperate

There’s nothing wrong with RASCI as long as it’s recognized as a single step in an action plan and not as an actionable strategy in itself. Simply put, the world and your organization are too complicated to be reduced to an acronym. However, there are some common rules that should be applied universally:

  1. Define individual roles, responsibilities, and accountability for all key business processes.
  2. Establish measurable performance criteria for critical processes.
  3. Make discipline, collaboration, and empowerment part of your organization’s culture.
  4. Ensure financial responsibility and budgetary processes are clearly understood and adhered to.
  5. Create strategic internal partnerships for growth and stability.
  6. Recognize employee contributions.
  7. Become a truly data-driven organization.

In the end, these are the rules to live—and grow—by.

Director of Strategy