Everyone wants collaboration, particularly across silo lines, but we often fail to acknowledge that collaboration comes with some down sides as well, specifically the toll it can take on speed. Collaboration requires meetings, and meetings take time. If you take collaboration to an extreme (everyone collaborates on every project or decision), then obviously next to nothing could get done. So while we do need collaboration to be effective, we also need to be clear about when we should collaborate and when we shouldn’t in order to maintain the speed that will make us successful.
We have seen several clients use the RACI model as a way to balance speed and collaboration. RACI is simply a model for assigning decision-making roles inside a system. It’s been around forever, and if you Google it you’ll soon discover that different people define it in different ways, so there’s no one “right” way to use it. But the acronym stands for Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, and Informed. The idea behind it is simple: everyone in the system is assigned one of those roles on any major decision or project. Clarity on the roles enables collaboration without wasted time.
In our version of it, “Responsible” is the role given to the person or people who are actually making the decision. If it’s more than one person, then those people must be unanimous in their decision. That’s one of the reasons you don’t have to many “Rs” usually, because it will slow things down if there is disagreement. Imagine a staff of 10 where everyone had to agree on everything for a decision to be made—nothing would get done!
We define “Accountable” as the person or group who delegated the decision making authority to the R (i.e., the boss). They aren’t responsible for the decision—they delegated that authority to the R—but they are accountable for the overall results, so they have a unique role in the decision making process: they can veto it, and they typically need more visibility into the progress/issues than the other roles. Some clients have been very diligent about insisting that there always be only ONE “A” for any decision/project. That clarity improves speed, since you know where the buck stops.
Consulted and Informed are usually used to clarify who is NOT making the decision (particularly with people who wish they were). Consulted means I can’t decide until I consult you about it, (though I am not obligated to follow your advice), and Informed means I can decide without talking to you at all (but I definitely need to tell you what the decision was). Getting clear on these roles is particularly important if you work with volunteer committees, who can get upset and end up slowing things down when they thought they were the decision makers, but weren’t.
It’s overkill to create a RACI chart for every single possible decision, but the organizations that are intentional about clarifying these roles usually see improvements in speed AND quality of decisions. There are fewer meetings with fewer people, and a well-implemented RACI system typically results in fewer decisions getting revisited after they are made, which is a huge waste of time in most organizations.
So from a culture change perspective, it works like this:
- Culture problem: Collaboration, while important, is making progress too slow.
- Relevant culture pattern: Heavy agility (our culture values forward action more than it values effective action)
- Culture solution: Use the RACI model to clarify decision making roles among individuals and groups on key decisions and projects
- Results: Fewer meetings with fewer people that produce better decisions, more quickly.
Note: this post is part of a new series on “Culture Solutions,” where we identify specific culture change action items that real clients have used to solve real problems in their organization.