Responsibility Charting Encourages Doers


Leaders are running into a growing problem with followers, who will not accept ownership when a job is done poorly, but instead pile on the excuses and pass the whole mess back up the chain of command.

This phenomenon is called “upward delegation.” One example is when a follower pesters you with questions about how to complete a task until you run out of patience and do it yourself. Eventually you get tired of the game and stop giving these people any more responsibilities, preferring instead to work more closely with the Doers who get things done.

Such action may resolve your frustrations and it may even speed things up a bit, but in reality it compounds the problem. Besides, responding to complaints from the malcontents claiming that you are playing favorites—which you are, will later eat up any time you may save. Fortunately, there is a better way to handle this.

An easy-to-use process called responsibility charting provides a language for pinpointing authority, roles, and reporting relationships. Introduced by J. Galbraith in his book Designing Complex Organizations, this powerful process enables you to talk about structure by breaking it down into specific team functions and work tasks. You will find this process helpful when launching a new venture, getting a floundering project back on track or holding nonperformers more accountable.

Begin by creating a matrix with the name of each team member written across the top row and the various tasks you want the team to accomplish listed in order of completion along the side. Now beneath each person’s name place one of the letters RACI, to represent the role he or she is to perform for each task. For example,

Responsible. The letter (R) identifies the person accountable for taking action. As a general rule there will only be one (R) for each task. The person with the (R) should understand and accept the conditions of performance that may include a budget, time frame, completion dates, milestones, etc.

Approve. The letter (A) identifies the person whose approval is needed before anything happens. This makes it clear that before any action is taken, the person with the (R) needs to run it by the (A) to get approval. The (R) will coordinate with the (A) to see just how far he or she can progress before providing the (A) with additional feedback.

Consult. The letter (C) indicates that a certain level of expertise is necessary for the successful completion of the task. It tells the (R) whom to consult with as the task progresses. Take note that only those persons designated (R) or (C) need to attend future task meetings—a time saver for everyone.

Inform. The letter (I) identifies the person(s) who need to be informed when the action is complete or given a status update as the task progresses. There is no need for those with the (I) to attend task meetings because the person with the (R) will keep them informed.

In addition to keeping track of the status of each task within a project, responsibility charting can be used to evaluate the contribution of each team player. For example, if you see that a follower has performed well as a (C) on several tasks, he or she could be ready to assume the (R) on a task that is coming up. This is a good way to shift responsibility to those who are ready for it.

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