Archive for February, 2011

Project Team and Groups Communication


      Earlier this month a friend of mine send me an e-mail asking about RACI. This turns out to be a very interesting topic to me and to discuss, not just the tool, but talk about some of the reasons when and why we want to use a RACI in a project, team or group. This actually will go back into team dynamics and synchronization between groups and team members. Here are my 2 cents, which my look like 5, but here it goes anyways.

      When dealing with projects well defined communication, roles and responsibilities are key to increased the success of any program. This does not guarantee success but it does increase the efficiency and chances for success. It is very simple when dealing with projects with only a few individuals, let say 4-6 individuals, that work together specially if they a located in the same building or area and have work together with similar successful projects in the past. This means that everyone knows and understand the final vision/goals to be accomplished.

They will also know and understand how they will contribute to achieve the goals. They know how to get things done, who they count with and who they can’t. They understand their skills and the skills of others interacting with them. The small group in a small project will have a pretty good grasp on how, when and what to use in a form of communication. Like a good family they normally work well together and understand their roles as they growth and execute on the program.

     It will be nice to have all projects like that and sometimes project manages will breakdown projects to mimic small project chunks to facilitate execution. But as project size grow, the complexity of dealing with the project grows and realistically getting the program/project divided in small unrelated chunks/tasks is not possible.

 When dealing with mid size projects can use a hybrid approach and combination of tools to manage or establish those. Ideally you can calculate the number of communication channels/nodes/point given the amount of people involved,
 Communication nodes = [N*(N-1)]/2 where N is number of individuals working in a project.
 A three person team will required 3 nodes, while a 6 person team in theory will have 15 nodes. Once you know the nodes you manage the communication flow. The problem with this is that it takes a simplistic look to a large problem when dealing with,

1. A larger group/team (Imagine a group of 20 — that will mean 190 nodes)

2. Organizational structure in which interaction with different department in a business (Finance, Marketing, Engineering, Operator, Technicians,…)

3. Cross businesses in which companies work together (Partners, Joint Ventures, Joint Development, Manufacturing,…)

4. Geographical location (Time zones, infrastructure limitations) 5. Cultural differences (How decisions are made, Who makes the decisions, philosophy of addressing problems,…)

 By the way, each node may need to be treated differently given the conditions and the individuals that are working together. One tool that is available to organization is the RACI, in which tries to tackle some of the issues mentioned above by categorizing the roles of team members and participants. Different people/groups/teams might play different roles depending on the stage of the program, task at hand and type of project. For example Manufacturing might have a say to the engineering team about design the product in a way that can be manufacture.  
This is my take on how I use it with my definition of the RACI roles,
R – Responsible – This person will actually do the work and completion of tasks. This person energy is considerably focus on getting thing done and complete with the item and requirements assigned or that the person is responsible for.

A – Accountable – This person is where the show stop for an specific task. Normally is a PM or a lead. Will make decision to move the program/project forward. Communication dynamics between the accountable and the responsible should be very clear and active. Clear expectations and updates to keep the program moving at the right pace.

C - Consultant – This role is for the gurus or experts in specific technical, business or knowledge area. They have a vote and provide guidance to the project based on their specific role/element of key information they posses. These individuals are most of the time on a need to know and on a request type of communication. Overuse of this individuals could cause confusion and will drag the work. Unwanted or reactive feedback/comment/suggestions from these individuals can cause havoc in the team, change directions, actually slow things down and/or stop progress. The accountable person needs to keep tabs on these individuals.

I – Informative – This role is for individual that are required to have information of the program either because they are key stakeholders but do not work on the project or are accountable for it and/or need the information to make decisions in other projects programs that they are working on. Or might be affected by the outcome of the project/program at hand.

      By establishing a RACI table when dealing with large group of individual/organization/project/program it can easily help minimize the challenges of communications and simplify decision making progress. It can reduce the complexity of managing different organizations, groups, cultural differences and help cluster large groups to allow a more effective communication channel.
There one element that I would probably add to the RACI tool and is the addition of the letter S
S - Sponsors – Which although is similar to the I but also a C. A key distinction is that this person also will have vetoed and influence power to the program. They might posses information that can drastically affect the outcome of the program and can actually cause a big impact to the working group (Positive or Negative) The lead should have open and honest communication clarifying goals and objectives along the way of the program.
Without the sponsor might not be a reason for a project. More information about RACI as a tool

Please let me know your thoughts.