Set Your Team Up for Success with the ARCI Matrix

Teamwork - that majestic unicorn!

Teams that work well together often produce results that far exceed the sum of their parts. Unfortunately, the oppose is just as true and far too common: teams that are out of sync will almost always come up short.

While there’s a wide range of factors that contribute to a team’s failure to deliver the desired results, one of the more common ones is a lack of clarity in roles and responsibilities. I’m sure we’ve all been part of projects where we didn’t know who else was working on it, what their roles were, or what exactly was expected from us. Not only will teams fail to deliver the goods when this happens, but team members are likely to lose enthusiasm and motivation in the long run.

You can mitigate this risk by combining two simple project management techniques.

The first is to break the project down into a hierarchy of action items using the SMART goals framework. This takes care of the what, why, how and when of your project.

The second is to define the who of your project. This is where the ARCI matrix comes in.

What is the ARCI matrix?

ARCI - which is an acronym for Accountable, Responsible, Consulted and Informed - is a responsibility assignment framework designed to bring structure and clarity to the roles people play on a project and its individual goals.

Let’s take a look at each element of the ARCI matrix.

ARCI Matrix.png

Accountable

First up, there should be one and only one person accountable for the outcome of the task. This person is the owner of the task and would typically sign off on any changes during its lifecycle. This is where the buck stops, and this person is answerable to the powers that be for this particular task.

Responsible

These are the people who actually work on completing the task; the doers. The person who is accountable may or may not be a part of the responsible team depending on the context.

Consulted

These are the people you would get in touch with for their added knowledge or expertise. These people don’t directly work on the task itself but act as external subject matter experts. For instance, a person might be responsible for a task which requires expertise in Microsoft Excel that they currently do not possess. In such a case, they may consult with the Excel wizard from another team for guidance.

Informed

These are the stakeholders who are affected by the outcome of the task and need to be kept in the loop at all times.

Making it all work

An organizational hierarchy becomes stable when accountability flows smoothly from top to bottom. The ARCI matrix is essentially an organized hierarchy of accountability which only works when every level sets up their own ARCI. Think of it as a series of concentric rings of accountability.

Concentric Rings of Accountability.png

Let’s take, for instance, an individual unit of work such as delivering a product or service to a customer that has landed on a CEO’s desk. The CEO is accountable to delivering the said product or service, but in all likelihood, they aren’t going to do it all by themselves.

  • They should begin by setting up an ARCI matrix where, let’s assume, they appoint the global head of operations as accountable.

  • The global head of operations, in turn, should set up their own ARCI where, let’s say they make the regional head accountable.

    You probably know where this is going…

  • The regional head should set up an ARCI where they delegate accountability to their teams leads

  • The team leads, in turn, should delegate it to individual contributors within their respective teams.

While all of this may sound very high-level as you read it, ARCI is, in fact, one of the most practical and elementary project management systems. Pair it up with SMART goals, and you have a winning formula on your hands.