Why don’t RACI charts work?

A RACI chart which maps who is Responsible, Accountable, Consulted or Informed across each of the steps in a process is a bureaucratic red flag. They are created when there is a recognized problem of different departments not working together. First of all, the process steps are listed across the top of the page. Next each department is listed down the left hand side of the page. At the intersection of the process step and the department letters are used to indicate who has which role. This can take up to hours of discussion because organizations will focus on their own internal measures and are careful to sign up to the process steps for which they are accountable or responsible. However, everyone agrees that they should be consulted or informed. Once the RACI chart is completed the "engagement" processes start to appear. Now to engage other departments we need to fill in resource request documents. Before long there are request approval meetings where we need to present our case to gain approval.

The lack of collaboration doesn’t stem from people not knowing who is “RACI” for each process steps. The root cause of the problem is the horizontal workflow has been split up into multiple departments. This a common outcome when we have a structure based on vertical functional silos. We are trying to use an extrinsic management tool, the RACI chart, to solve an intrinsic motivation problem. There are easier and better ways to achieve this outcome.  

An interesting thing is that once completed the RACI chart usually never sees the light of day again. Unless one department wants to use it to point out the lack of delivery of another department. This, by the way, is not a good way to increase collaboration.

In the FAQ, “Why can we get things done in a crisis?” the answer isn’t someone saying, “stop let’s pull out the RACI chart to see who should be doing what?”.