Responsibility Assignment Matrix

19 June, 2014

For a farmer, it is a male sheep. For a "Good'Ol Boy" from Texas, it is a Dodge pickup. But to a Project Management Professional (PMP)®, a RAM is a Responsibility Assignment Matrix. This is a great tool to help with Project Human Resource Management, because it identifies everyone involved in an activity, not only the person who carries out the activity itself.

Suppose you are a block-layer and your next task is to build a wall around a newly constructed dwelling. You cannot lay your blocks until a foundation for the wall has been dug and the concrete dried. So you will need a notification that this work is done before you can arrive with your truck load of blocks. Similarly, you will need to know what sort of wall to build – how high should it be and how thick. Will it have stone cappings on top? Will it have a pebble-dashed finish? In other words, you need to have the specifications, or requirements for the job.

Having built the wall, someone – usually the site foreman – will have to inspect the work and agree to pay you for it. If you are very specialized and the only task you perform is block-laying, someone else might need to do the pebble-dashing, or painting, or whatever finishing the wall needs. They will need to know when the block-laying is finished.

In this simple example, we see many of the inter-dependencies associated with project management:

  1. The person responsible for carrying out the work needs to be informed when conditions are right to begin work.
  2. That person needs to be told what the task is and what the success criteria are.
  3. Other workers need to be told when this activity is finished, so subsequent activities can take place.
  4. There has to be some sort of inspection to ensure that the activity took place and met its requirements.

Project managers use a Responsibility Assignment Matrix (RAM) to record these roles. They create a table with project activities listed as the rows and people as the columns. Then, for each activity, the people who will contribute are identified and their contribution noted. A popular way to do this is by using a RACI notation.

RACI contains the four letters used to denote roles on the project:

  • “R”: This stands for “Responsible”. This signifiies the person who will carry out the work for that activity.
  • “A” stands for “Accountable”. This is the person who commissions the work and signs off on its completion. Only one person should be accountable for any given activity. This is a common fault that PMP® exam students get asked to spot – what is wrong with this RAM? Often two people are Accountable for the same activity. Or worse, no one is Accountable.
  • “C” is for “Consult”. Consultants can contribute in a variety of ways. The important feature of this role is that it is an active one: this person can give expert advice, or take part in the review of the finished artefact. Identifying reviewers up front during the planning phase of a project is helpful as it can give people who did not get their preferred assignments an opportunity to contribute to their favourite area.
  • “I” is for “Inform”. In our building example, the block-layer had to be informed when the site was ready for the activity and, in turn, s/he had to inform the site foreman (the one “Accountable” for the activity) when the task was complete. A painter, or plasterer, would now need to be informed, so that the wall project can proceed to the next activity. Note that the “Informed” persons are listed, not the person who does the informing. However, it is the responsibility of the one who is “Accountable” to make sure the message is delivered.

On being introduced to the RACI notation, many project managers scratch their heads and ask questions like: what if I have more than one person working on a project task? Can I have two or more people “Responsible”? In that case, you might consider a RASCI notation, where a new role – “Support” – is added. So that one person is still responsible for doing the work, but others may provide support for the task. If you go back to being a block-layer for a moment, you might have someone mixing the cement and providing a steady supply of blocks and cement, while you do the block-laying itself. You are “Responsible”; the cement-mixer is in “Support”.

The choice of notations should be driven by the sorts of roles you envision on your project. There are many out there, besides the RACI and RASCI variants already discussed. You might consider:

  • RACIA: Responsible, Accountable, Consult, Inform, Approve (“Approve” being a QA-type role).
  • LACTI: Lead, Approve, Consult, Tasked, Informed
  • CAIRO (or RACIO): Consult, Accountable, Informed, Responsible, Out-of-loop (This is a bit like the Out of Scope analysis in Project Scope Management. It might be useful to state explicitly who should NOT contribute to the activity).
  • DACI: Driver, Approver, Contributor, Informed
  • RAPID: Recommend, Agree, Perform, Input, Decide

No matter what types of roles you consider for your activities, the important thing for any project manager is to go through the process of compiling a RAM. Assigning people to activities not only informs the project manager of the personnel required for the project, but also allows a certain amount of career development, by allowing people contribute in areas they would like to become involved in.

Velopi’s project management training courses cover project human resource management. If this area is intriguing for you, you might consider one of our project management certification courses that are held in Dublin, Cork, Limerick and Galway. Find out more by visiting our training page or by contacting us directly.

By Velopi Seamus Collins

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