Better Quit those Rat RACIS

Halloween Pumpkin. This image is CC0!

Hopefully, you have not experienced situations like the following very often in your life (“Bob” is the son, genders in that example are arbitrary):

Dad to mom: Bob has not done his homework well.

Mom to dad: Then tell him.

Dad to mom: When I’m not at home, it is your responsibility to do that.

This dialogue is the symptom for something that I call a “Rat RACI.”

In the business world, RACI matrizes are a well known tool to communicate responsibilities in an organization.

RACI (or RASCI) is an acronym for Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed, and sometimes Supporting. Usually the are represtend as a table with roles in the column header and activities in the rows. The content of the table are the four (or five) letters of the acronym:

Role 1 Role 2 Role 3 Role 4
Activity 1 A
Activity 2 R C
Activity 3 A, R R I
Activity 4 A I C
Activity 5 A R R
Activity 6 I C A, R
  • Responsible means that these persons are the doers who produce the Results. You will find an R in more than one column for an actitivity quite often.
  • Accountable is the person who holds the final responsibility, also often somebody who needs to Approve the results of the others. Each activity can have only one role or person accountable. As you see in the example, A and R are compatible. Done right, it is a sign for true empowerment in a team if you have some As in the same column entries as Rs.
  • Consulted is everybody who may have knowledge or an opininion about the desired results. One can also ask them to Check the results. Often, stakeholders fall into that category.
  • Informed stands for everybody who needs to be “kept In the loop” about the current status and/or the results.
  • Supporting means that somebody is helping to produce the results. For example, Subject matter experts can be listed with an S. This category is an addition to the original RACI concept, you can also see it as a special case of Consulted.

Looking at the dialogue from above, what went wrong?

  1. I bet that the RACI behind such situations is never made explicit.
  2. You see implicit or explicit hierarchies and power distribution issues.
  3. The main person (the child) who is responsible for the homework is not even present (“Then tell him.”).

The implicit RACI for that is:

Dad Mom Bob
Homework A R ???

So you have three persons with two levels of hierarchy and it is not even clear what the role of the main person is. This clearly is a Rat RACI.

Let’s have a look at a way to transform that Rat RACI into something more helpful and empowering:

Bob Dad Mom
Homework A/R C C

(The Cs could be Ss as well.)

The first step to change to this better solution is to realize that there is something like a hidden RACI. Then identify who is is the doer. That person (Bob) is responsible. Considering homework for school he is also the one who has final responsibility outside of the inner circle of the family. So Bob is accountable as well. Dad’s and mom’s job is to help Bob. So they are consulted or supporting.

Rat RACIS are the anti-pattern after which cynical organizations form their hierarchy. You can identify Rat RACIS when one or more meanings of the letters apply:

  • Alpha animal is the biggest player in the game.
  • Rat is the one who is running around the labyrinth without a real clue what is expected.
  • Cat is catching the Rat on behalf of the Alpha animal in case results are not as expected.
  • Insects can be squashed at will and/or Irish Wolfhounds will chase after everybody doing something wrong.
  • Snakes can sweet-talk anybody into anything but will sacrifice them if they are not in line with their own goals.

… it lies within organizations implementing them.

What was the last time you saw a Rat RACI? I would love to see your real life examples in the comments to this post?


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