When describing the flow of a process, and the people involved, it’s useful to apply a RACI scheme. In it’s original and most common format this means those people Responsible, Accountable, Consulted or Informed.
- Responsible: the person who is charged with carrying out the task in question, or the people if more than one person is involved.
- Accountable: the person who bears the ultimate accountability for the task and its successful outcome. There can only be one person here.
- Consulted: the person or people who need to be consulted for the task – and there is an implication of two-way communication. By that I mean, when auditing, I would expect to see, say, a question and an answer.
- Informed: the person or people who need to be told that the task is about to take place, is taking place or has taken place – or be informed of the outcome. Unlike Consulted there is no expectation of a response.
Using this scheme, the key players for each task are shown, including those who have advisory or approval inputs, and those needing to know what is happening or has happened.
When I first used this (around 1995) I found the first two categories led to much confusion. Is the Accountable person the one in charge or the actual task or their supervisor? Is it not the CEO, General Manager, etc., who is ultimately accountable? Accountable to whom? What’s the difference between Responsible and Accountable? To that last question, the simplest answer is that responsibility can be delegated but accountability cannot – helpful but it didn’t resolve the overall confusion.
An alternative approach is:
- Responsible: the person who is responsible for the execution of the task – only one person can be responsible here. They might be accountable as well but that need not be an issue. The Responsible person is the one who makes sure the task is done right, at the right time and involves the right people.
- Assists: the new A and these are the people who may also be involved in performing the task.
- Consulted and Informed stay as above, unchanged.
It may, at first glance, appear as though we’ve just reversed the R and A roles but the change goes deeper. We’ve kept one person as the focal point (previously the Accountable, now the Responsible) but that’s now the person actually performing or supervising the task, not somebody who may have delegated any direct involvement. We’re also able to identify everyone now involved, even if they don’t carry specific responsibilities.
I’ve found this to be better for describing processes down to task level and to be much clearer to people using the system. It also ensures the responsibility for each task is unequivocally assigned and everyone involved knows who that person is.