Improving Team Communication with RACI Charts

Communication is one of the most important aspects of project management, if not the most important. However, the discussion of communication's importance is for another day. Today's topic deals with communicating who is doing what and one of the tools Project Managers have at their disposal, the RACI Chart.

Lets start with a brief explanation - RACI stands for Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed. These are the 4 different roles people take on a project. Creating a matrix of team members and stakeholders along with their role - R or A or C or I - helps clarify who is doing what on a project or in a specific area of a project such as a work package.

RACI charts define the responsibilities and accountabilities for project work.

A person is Responsible if they are assigned tasks to do. Then they have specific responsibility to complete those tasks to the required specifications.

Sample RACI chart
RACI Chart Example

Accountable means that when things don't go right, this person is the one who has to answer for work not being completed as expected, within cost or on-time. To truly be accountable, they should be the one worrying if they will be demoted or fired when something goes wrong. As a general rule of thumb, only 1 person should be identified as Accountable.

A person with a C designation is Consulted for a particular area. That means they are given the opportunity to provide input on how things should be accomplished or what should be done. This person isn't responsible to complete the work and won't have their job or position at risk if things don't go correctly.

The last part of RACI is the I. This is the person who is Informed of status, activities, risks, problems, successes, etc. They are to be kept in the loop of what is going on in a particular area, therefore falling in the area of Informed. Communication flows to them, not from them for the particular area.

The RACI chart can be done at various levels of detail on a project. Starting with work packages from a work breakdown structure (WBS) works well for many projects. At times, going into more detail or less detail may be appropriate for a given project or team. The project manager or a PMO can help guide what the right level is for a particular project.

Complex projects, projects with large teams, or teams with members who don't value project management provide excellent opportunities to use a RACI chart.

A spreadsheet can be used to create a simple RACI Chart. Here is a link to a sample RACI-Template.

Do you use RACI charts? We've posted this topic on our blog Projects in a Simple Way - share your comments with us there.

Communications Channels

Communication channels are the number of person to person ways a team can communicate. The formula to calculate the number of communications channels is:

(n*(n-1))/2 where n is the number of people on the team.

Communications Channels
Communication Channels Formula

For example, a three person team has three channels (A - B, A - C, and B - C). Adding a fourth person increases the communications channels to six.

Sometimes its hard to grasp the concept of how much more difficult communications becomes as more people get involved. We all know it happens, but just how difficult can things become?

One of the masterful equations that experienced project managers know is the communications channels equation. It goes like this, for each person added to a project team, the number of ways communications can flow between team members grows in an exponential fashion.

To figure the quantity of links between team members, we use the formula (n*(n-1))/2 where n represents the number of people on the team.

The graph shows how simply adding a 10th person to a team increases the communications channels from 36 to 45. That's 9 additional communications channels by adding the 10th person.

In fact, by adding the 50th person to a team adds 49 additional communications channels for a whopping total of 1,225 ways the communications can flow between team members on a team.

The Formula

The number of communications channels on a project team is determined by the following equation:

(n*(n-1))/2 where n is the number of people on the team.

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