How the RACI Model Helps Get Things Done

Lately, I find myself answering many questions with, "I use the RACI model for that." And so, I had my idea for this post. A little bit about the RACI model and how it helps me get things done – or really, how I get people to do things.

The RACI Model

You can read more about this elsewhere, but all you really need to know is what the letters in this acronym stand for:

It is meant to be a project management tool to assign roles and responsibilities to project team members. For each task, someone is designated as one of these:

Responsible - Person who does the work; must be exactly 1 per task
Accountable - Person who has to explain actions or decisions; may be 0 or 1 per task
Consulted - Ask them for input or feedback on what is being done; use as appropriate
Informed - Let them know that this task is happened or is complete; use as appropriate

RACI in Content Strategy

I think I first heard about this model from Kristina Halvorson, perhaps at her 2013 CS Forum. It stuck with and grew on me. It made so much sense! Designate specifically who does what and remove ambiguity. Remove the fear that comes from the feeling of being left out, even though you don't have the time, inclination, or skill to do a certain thing.

As Hilary Marsh just wrote, "Your content challenge is really a people challenge." Or as I find myself saying more often, "Content strategy is people."

When setting out a content strategy, I determine early on who has which role for the overall strategy, each of the tasks and activities, as well as for creating content. Let me explain the first part of that.

Usually my point of contact for a client is responsible for the content strategy but not necessarily accountable. So during the project kick-off meeting, I ask: Who is accountable for the success or failure of this project? The person responsible needs a clear line of communication to whoever is accountable. Because of that fear of being left out – or wondering why they are involved in this meeting – I ask who needs to be consulted and informed about different parts of the project. Turns out a lot of people are just fine with a lesser role once they know they won't be left out completely.

Of course, this helps me, as an outsider, learn a bit more about the dynamics of the people I'll be working with. But it also sets a course for a smoother project because ambiguity is removed and expectations are set.

When I create a project plan, I do the same exercise for each task or activity.

RACI in editorial workflow

I also apply this to content creation in the editorial process. It is the heart of a decentralized publishing process. It carries through governance.

Editor – person who is ACCOUNTABLE for the content - they give the sign off on everything that is published, or is the only one who can actually publish content

Author – person who RESPONSIBLE for the content - they are the creators and compilers of what is going on the site, they can enter and edit content and submit for review by designated Editor

Stakeholder – people who are CONSULTED or INFORMED about content being created, updated, or removed

RACI to connect silos

When working across departments, using the RACI model has saved countless hours of argument or blame games. Maybe you are accountable for the web content but the IT department manages the server. You need to clearly define who is responsible and accountable for what. Sit down with a chart of activities or tasks and the people who are responsible and accountable in both departments and complete it together. Everyone is clear and you have something easy to turn to when the server crashes or needs an update to run a script. Only one person is responsible for that task – and it's in black and white on the screen or paper in front of you.

Since content crosses many departments, the RACI model is helpful to help connect the silos. You don't need two web pages about webinars because two different departments put them on. You need one page, with one person responsible and maybe a couple others who are consulted about the content on the page. In these cases, there definitely needs to be someone accountable. That person is probably also accountable for revenue or participation goals.

Now that you see some uses for the RACI model, how might it change how you approach content strategy activities or projects? We can live with ambiguity, but organizations can't.