RACI – hierarchy and blame

(More on RACI here –

I’m discussed RACI before and I’m a big fan of RACI for the purpose of alignment and accountability, but I recently encountered a situation where a (senior) staff used RACI to ‘hide’ and deflect their own Accountability on a project.

Following the principles of RACI this shouldn’t happen, so the fact it has (or was attempted) is why I feel the need to write about. 

When we dissect what happened, we see this senior staff asked about progress on a particular initiative, the staff then explains that there has been limited progress since one part (part A) of this hasn’t been completed and Part A wasn’t their accountable element, but someone else’s ( a junior staff), someone who reported to this senior staff.

Reading this breakdown, you can see clearly that there’s a hierarchy, this senior staff is in charge of the Larger initiative, under which Part A is a portion of. We also see that the junior staff is accountable for this Part A, but not the overall larger initiative. Based on this taxonomy – the fact the larger initiative hasn’t progress means that the senior staff should still be accountable, the fact Part A and the junior staff haven’t made progress is a root cause, but secondary. We expect our senior staff to lead and manage their subordinate junior staff, and we expect our senior staff to understand and direct the completion of Part A in the wider focus of completing the Larger Initiative, in this understanding the junior staff is a Responsible party within the Larger Initiative.

During a review of the Larger Initiative, the failure isn’t on the junior staff, and the failure to deliver Part A, it is the failure of the senior staff in ensuring that a part of the Larger Initiative they are accountable for hasn’t been delivered. 

So, whilst on the surface this senior staff has ‘hidden’ behind the hierarchy of the project by simply starting the Larger Initiative hasn’t progressed due to the failure of the Junior staff to deliver Part A, its very clear that the Senior staff is ultimately the accountable party given Part A is a part of the Larger Initiative. This hierarchy of dependancies means that everyone is clear on how various initiatives and their constituent parts inter-relate, its still possible to blame someone, but as you can see, it’s transparent where accountability lies.

You can’t stop people from blaming others, but you can increase transparency on various initiatives and how they inter-relate so that you can determine if the blame is reasonable or not.

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