The ARCI Matrix for Structuring Roles

Teamwork is often seen as an effective way to accomplish work goals. And there is no doubt that when teams work well together the results can be impressive. Unfortunately, the opposite is true and all too common: Teams that fail to work well can also fail to deliver the desired results.

When several people work on a project it is easy to assume that someone else is taking care of a particular detail or assignment. It is also easy to point fingers and assign blame when one of those jobs is done poorly or not done at all.

While there’s a wide range of factors that contribute to a team’s failure to accomplish its desired goals, one of the more common ones is a lack of clarity in roles and responsibilities. That is where the ARCI matrix comes in.

What is the ARCI Matrix?

The ARCI Matrix is a responsibility assignment matrix system that brings structure and clarity to assigning the roles people play within a team. It is a simple grid system that you can use to clarify people’s responsibilities and ensure that everything the team needs to do is taken care of.

It is a system that brings structure and clarity to assigning the roles people play within a team. It is a simple grid system that you can use to clarify people’s responsibilities and ensure that everything the team needs to do is taken care of.  Sounds complicated, how do I use it? Using the ARCI system, you list every task, milestone and decision, then clarify who is responsible, who is accountable, and where appropriate, who needs to be consulted or informed. The acronym ARCI stands for:

  • Accountable – this person is the “owner” of the work. He or she must sign off or approve when the task, objective or decision is complete. This person must make sure that responsibilities are assigned in the matrix for all related activities. There is only one person accountable, which means that “the buck stops there.”
  • Responsible – these people are the “doers” of the work. They must complete the task or objective or make the decision. Several people can be jointly responsible.
  • Consulted – these are the people who need to give input before the work can be done and signed-off on. These people are “in the loop” and active participants.
  • Informed – these people need to be kept “in the picture.” They need updates on progress or decision, but they do not need to be formally consulted, nor do they contribute directly to the task or decision.

Benefits of Using ARCI

  • Many factors can contribute to the underperformance of a team, but unless responsibilities and accountabilities are clear, there can be a significant risk that problems will arise.
  • With complex, time-sensitive or mission-critical projects, or in situations where people are ducking responsibility, it is often worth taking the time to think through the roles that you and your team members must play in every task that your team undertakes. Without this clarity, you will most-likely find gaps, duplication and confusion. Teamwork will be frustrating, inefficient and you are less likely to deliver good results. In these situations, the delegation of tasks and other responsibilities can be too important to leave to chance.
  • One of the biggest challenges of team working (particularly in areas where there’s little margin for error) is to make sure everything is done completely and well. By taking a structured approach to role assignment using the ARCI Matrix, you can plot and check who is responsible and accountable for each team task, and also check the integrity of each person’s roles. In so doing, you can minimize the risk of gaps, overlaps and confusions and so have a greater chance of running a highly effective and efficient team.

Guidelines for Creating an ARCI Matrix

Outcome of the ARCI process is a two-dimensional matrix, with functions or tasks on one axis and participants or roles on the other. Sample matrix might look like this:

Sample ARCI Matrix
Sample ARCI Matrix

There are certain guidelines that should be followed when ARCI matrix is created. Tasks or functions have to be named clearly and non-generic (not like “administrative work”) , using action verbs (for example, “monitor network performance”).

When you fill the table, you should keep in mind following rules:

  • The golden rule of the ARCI model is that there should be only one A. Two or more As will create confusion.
  • More than two Rs in the same row means duplication of work. In that case try to split the task into smaller pieces.
  • No Rs in a row means a gap, because nobody will be responsible and work will not be done. This can also mean that task is not needed.
  • If possible, place most of Rs and As at the leftmost side of the matrix. This improves overall clarity of the table.
  • Every row must contain one A and one R. However, same participant can be both responsible and accountable at the same time.
  • If there is a role with no Rs or As, reconsider if role is needed.

9 thoughts on “The ARCI Matrix for Structuring Roles”

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