The RACI model for project management is increasingly ill-suited to modern in-house agency life: Jim Hubbard and John Owen examine its weaknesses and suggest some alternatives
There have been various attempts to adapt the classic RACI model for assigning roles and responsibilities on a project. If you are not familiar with this method, R is for Responsible (those who do the work to complete the task), A for Accountable (the one ultimately responsible for the task’s correct completion), C for Consulted (people who need to provide input to the task via two-way communication) and I is for Informed (those who need to be kept up-to-date on the task but who do not actively work on it, one-way communication).
RACI has proved to be a robust methodology for many, but it has its limitations. Used in the wrong way, a RACI can undermine collective responsibility: ‘I’m not on the RACI, therefore it’s not my problem’. The firefighter may be Responsible for putting out the office fire, but you should still act when you see a smoking wastepaper bin! So ‘A’ can sometimes stand for ‘Abdication’ or ‘Avoiding’!
Such limitations have led to many attempts to fine-tune RACI since its introduction in the 1950s. RATSI adds a T for Task to identify those who actually do the work more clearly. RACI-VS adds a Verifier (those who check whether the work meets the criteria set out for it) and a Signatory (recommended to be the same person who is A for Accountable), while RACIQ also aims to acknowledge a need for a Quality review.
Within in-house agencies, it is often assumed that those Accountable (the As) are also those with sign-off. This isn’t always the case and it pays to give yourself flexibility in this matter.
In most organisations, important work will require multiple sign-offs. This may happen in stages or it may be that multiple stakeholders review work at the same time, but either way this reality must be accommodated somehow.
What it doesn’t mean however, is that all of these people should be assigned as A for Accountable. The rule that works best is that only ONE person should be Accountable – making it clear where the buck stops and where the authority lies (not least for managing those multiple stakeholders). Introducing an S for sign-off into your RACI can make things clearer and smoother here.
Whether you add an S or not, the traditional RACI approach can be a problem for in-house agencies producing large volumes of work at high pace. A lot of day-to-day outputs in social media and other digital channels cannot be subjected to traditional sign-off hierarchies – they would be irrelevant by the time they were published if they were. So we often recommend a Retrospective Review system, where a creative director, for example, will give guidance and feedback once a month, or so, reviewing work that has already run and offering guidance and direction for how future improvements might be made.
As she told us in our May In-House Life panel session, Headspace CCO Caroline Pay uses a version of this method. She contrasted the demands of in-house with her previous external agency life, where she would be expected to approve every piece of work that left the building on her accounts. The sheer volume of assets being created by her teams at Headspace would make that impossible, she told us. Instead, she has instigated a retrospective system of monthly ‘calibrations’ where “everything that has gone out drops into a deck and we talk through it all, look at all the results and all the assets”.
In a post-launch model, adding a Q for ‘Quality-review’ embeds the ‘crit’ into each campaign so that discussing the work and looking for ways to improve it become core parts of the process. Sign-off happens and is clearly designated, but it doesn’t get in the way of being agile and speedy.
RACI? RASCI? RACIQ? Confused? For BBC Creative we built a new model that better reflected their reality. We called it IDEAS.
For anyone managing a creative project, it is important to set the expectations of people involved in the project from the outset. We found the IDEAS model to be a more straightforward tool for identifying roles and responsibilities and avoiding confusion over those roles and responsibilities during a project.
Informed: Those who must be kept in the loop, via one-way, FYI-style updates.
Do: The person or role carrying out the work.
Exchange views: People who must be given a say before the project moves onto the next stage, in a two-way communications process.
Answerable: The buck stops here. For on time, in scope and it being right.
Signed: The person or role that is required to sign an output before it moves to the next stage.
Perhaps you have your own acronym that works best for you?
Jim Hubbard and John Owen are, along with Nicky Russell, the founding partners of consultancy WDC which helps IHAs, marketers and their agency partners to work better together. WDC founded the In-House Agency Leaders Club along with Patrick Burgoyne