How to Stress Less Over Project Management: The RACI Tool

Remember the days of working on group projects in school? If you’re like me, you might have felt like no one had any idea what his or her role was. You might have even gotten stuck doing all of the work because you were worried that no one else would take responsibility or were afraid to ask for help. Maybe you came to dread group projects. Nowadays, does your professional life ever feel like that?

When I first started my FAO Schwarz Fellowship at Strong Women, Strong Girls (SWSG) in Boston, we were undergoing several leadership transitions. Roles were unclear, and projects sometimes stalled or petered out entirely. Luckily, when our current Executive Director came on board, she introduced our transition-weary team to a project management tool with a somewhat conspicuous name that has since helped us immensely: RACI.

RACI is an acronym for the words “Responsible, “Accountable,” “Consulted,” and “Informed.” Below is a quick summary of what that all means (you might notice that it should really be called “ARCI”).

• ACCOUNTABLE: Ultimately accountable for the success of a project, program, event, or goal. S/he may or may not be responsible for carrying it out in a hands-on way.
• RESPONSIBLE: Responsible for implementation. There may be more than one R, and an A may also be an R.
• CONSULTED: Someone who is consulted for her/his opinion, but not expected to be involved in carrying out a project.
• INFORMED: Simply needs to be informed of progress and/or outcomes.

Here’s a quick example: Say you are the Program Director of a year-long program for teenage girls. You’re nearing the end of the school year, and are planning a celebratory event for the girls. You are overseeing a team of one staff person, whom you supervise, and three volunteers. All of you are involved in event planning in a hands-on way.

• A: You as the Program Director are accountable for the event’s success.
• R: You, the staff member, and the three volunteers are all Rs.
• C: Your Executive Director is not involved in-depth, but you need to consult her here and there to make sure you are staying in line with the event budget. Plus, she is helping you secure a venue through her sponsorship connections.
• I: Given the culture of your specific organization, your Board Chair only really needs to be informed of the date, time, and location (if she wants to come) or simply of how the event went after the fact.

Since learning about the tool and applying it to all areas of our team’s work, I’ve become somewhat of a RACI evangelist (as have other staff and volunteers within SWSG!). I’ve implemented it when planning events with a team of volunteers; when navigating community partnerships that me, my supervisor, and her supervisor are all involved in; and when simply looking to designate someone who was in charge of something, big or small. (“Who’s the ‘A’ on opening the mail?”)

What’s so great about RACI? Simply identifying roles—what they mean, how they differ, and how they interact—for a project, program, or goal, is immensely clarifying and tension relieving. It’s also simply helpful to provide your team with a common language to refer to understood norms for roles. As a person who is young or simply new to an organization, it can be tough to decipher when you are and are not in charge of something unless it’s spelled out. It can work the other way around, too. For example, does your Development Director really need to be “responsible” for overseeing your program’s field trips? Nope, she’s more like an “I” or even a “C.” Keep that micro-management in check! Supervising staff or volunteers and want to set expectations around their role? Draft a RACI, get their input, make sure they buy into it, and use it to hold them accountable.

Clarity and communication, paired with the right amount of detail and structure, equals less stress, more progress, and more goals met. Have you or will you put RACI to the test after reading this? Let me know how it goes!

Sarah Kacevich is the FAO Schwarz Fellow and Program Associate with Strong Women, Strong Girls (SWSG) in Boston, an organization that empowers girls to imagine a broader future through a curriculum grounded in female role models and delivered by college women, who are themselves mentored by professional women. At SWSG, she oversees three college chapters and 35 partner program sites, leads the pilot Junior Mentor Program, and manages partnerships with other nonprofits. Outside of work, she loves to hike, run, do yoga, make art, cook, and travel.