|Grid position 1 (pole position)|
In the last Process Pragmatist article, I described a few uses of responsibility matrices to improve organizational coordination and combat the avoidable problems of poor productivity, lost revenue, frustrated employees, and alienated customers that frequently arise when staff members lack clarity about who has responsibility for work. This article continues that exploration with another RACI grid variant, taking a deep dive into a detailed procedure and a free spreadsheet tool for automatically generating position descriptions that accurately capture work interdependencies.
I’ll start by talking about the advantages of this approach, then describe the work products it generates. I’ll then outline at a high level one approach to creating the responsibility matrix/position descriptions. Finally, I’ll present a detailed procedure for using the automated tool and a link to the tool itself.
Plotting your positions on a grid can smooth hand-offs that may currently be tripping up your team, freeing them from wasting time on coordination and rework, and allowing them to start racing through their responsibilities. By integrating the creation of a shared responsibility matrix and individual positions descriptions, this particular approach has a number of advantages:
- Engenders shared understanding of roles and responsibilities among employees, especially when the process of creating the responsibility matrix is done collaboratively.
- For no extra effort, creates detailed individual job descriptions that accurately reflect interdependent work.
- Since these position descriptions are automatically generated, they are always in-sync with the shared responsibility matrix, eliminating the duplicative work of updating both when work changes as well as any confusion that may arise from documents that are out-of-sync or written at different levels of detail.
- When one position’s responsibilities changes, updating the responsibility matrix immediately highlights impacts on related positions, facilitating proactive adaptation.
|Role||Duty||Pos. A||Pos. B||Pos. C|
|Financial Management||Prepare annual department budget based on strategic & operational objectives.||R||–||A|
|Financial Management||Review monthly budget-to-actual reports for accuracy.||A||R||B|
|Continuity Management||Develop & maintain business continuity plans.||I||R||A|
|Customer Satisfaction||Capture, analyze, & act on ongoing customer satisfaction metrics.||S||A||R|
|Customer Satisfaction||Capture, analyze, & act on customer satisfaction & feedback through semi-annual survey.||C||B||–|
Duty Description Detail
Because so much service and knowledge work is interdependent, I typically specify duties in detail to avoid misunderstandings. However, if you’re starting from a very ambiguous understanding of position boundaries, it may be useful to proceed in multiple passes. Begin first by describing the work to be performed at a general level and go through the exercise of assigning involvement codes for each position. Once consensus is reached, break each high level responsibility description down into process and even procedure-level descriptions, repeating the exercise of assigning involvement codes to provide maximum clarity (especially useful in complex work involving multiple hand-offs).
In addition to the examples of duty description granularity demonstrated in this article’s sample matrices, the free spreadsheet tool provided at the end of this article includes more models in a set of sample duties for a small IT department.
Coding Position Responsibility
For the purpose of building position descriptions, I typically expand the number of involvement types from the traditional RACI set to allow finer grained distinctions.
|R||Responsible||performs the work|
|B||Backup||performs the work in the absence of the Responsible party (provides fail-over redundancy)|
|S||Supporting||assists Responsible party in performing work|
|A||Approving||authorizes and approves work, ultimately accountable|
|C||Consulting||provides input before/during work|
|I||Informed||notified after a decision or action is taken|
Many other useful variants provide additional alternative codings that may be useful given the dynamics of different organizations.
Mapping to Position Descriptions
The transformation from responsibility matrix to job description for a given position is accomplished by (1) compiling all duties in the responsibility matrix with an involvement type coded in that position’s column, and (2) prepending a unique phrase to each duty describing the position’s responsibility based on its involvement type. Representative phrases for the sample involvement types are illustrated below.
Provide secondary coverage to:
Assists others to:
Approve work of others who:
Provide input to others who:
Notified when others:
|B||Backup||Provide secondary coverage to:|
|S||Supporting||Assists others to:|
|A||Approving||Approve work of others who:|
|C||Consulting||Provide input to others who:|
|I||Informed||Notified when others:|
Putting all of these parts together yields the following position description for “Position B”.
|Financial Management||Review monthly budget-to-actual reports for accuracy.|
|Continuity Management||Develop & maintain business continuity plans.|
|Customer Satisfaction||Approve work of others who: Capture, analyze, & act on ongoing customer satisfaction metrics.|
|Customer Satisfaction||Provide secondary coverage to: Capture, analyze, & act on customer satisfaction & feedback through semi-annual survey.|
The spreadsheet tool provided at the end of this article automates compiling relevant duties and prepending the correct phrase to each duty description, allowing position descriptions to be compiled automatically from a completed responsibility matrix.
At a high level, the process of generating such a responsibility matrix and related position descriptions includes the following phases:
- Planning: Produce a plan answering the essential questions:
- Who is leading the process?
- Which positions are included?
- How will the position holders participate?
- Who else is impacted by the decisions?
- How will results be communicated to stakeholders?
- Where will duties be sourced?
- In what detail will responsibilities be captured?
- What involvement codes will be used to record responsibility?
- How & when will the results be reviewed?
- Tool Preparation: Prepare the spreadsheet tool from the provided template.
- Duty Capture: Generate and record the duties in the spreadsheet tool according to the plan.
- Involvement Coding: Record the responsibility of each position for each duty using the selected coding standard.
- Communication: Use the tool to create the position descriptions & communicate to internal & external stakeholders as planned.
How do you keep your organization firing on all cylinders? Let me know what techniques you find effective for apportioning and communicating responsibility among team members using the Comments section below.