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.

Setting SMART Objectives

Setting effective objective to guide your team and organisation is very important for leader to get right. Badly formulated objectives will steer an organisation in the wrong direction. Here are some tips to help you set up SMART objectives effectively:

  1. Sort out the difference between objectives and aims, goals and targets before you start. Aims and goals relate to your aspirations, objectives are your battle-plan. Set as many objectives as you need for success.
  2. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely.
  3. Don’t try to use that order M-A/R-S-T is often the best way to write objectives.
  4. Measurable is the most important consideration. You will know that you’ve achieved your objective, because here is the evidence. I will know too! Make sure you state how you will record your success.
  5. Achievable is linked to measurable. Usually, there’s no point in starting a job you know you can’t finish, or one where you can’t tell if/when you’ve finished it. How can I decide if it’s achievable?
    • You know it’s measurable
    • Others have done it successfully (before you, or somewhere else)
    • It’s theoretically possible (i.e., clearly not ‘not achievable’)
    • You have the necessary resources, or at least a realistic chance of getting them
    • You’ve assessed the limitations
  6. If it’s achievable, it may not be realistic. If it isn’t realistic, it’s not achievable.You need to know:
    • Who’s going to do it?
    • Do they have (or can they get) the skills to do a good job?
    • Where’s the money coming from?
    • Who carries the can?

    Realistic is about human resources/time/money/opportunity.

  7. The main reason an objective is achievable but not realistic is that it is not a high priority. Often something else needs to be done first. If so, set up two (or more) objectives in priority order.
  8. The devil is in the specific detail. You will know your objective is specific enough if:
    • Everyone who’s involved knows that it includes them specifically
    • Everyone involved can understand it
    • Your objective is free from jargon
    • You have defined all your terms
    • You have used only appropriate language
  9. Timely means setting deadlines. You must include one, otherwise your objective isn’t measurable. But your deadlines must be realistic, or the task isn’t achievable. T must be M, and R, and S without these your objective can’t be top-priority.
  10. It is worth this effort! You’ll know you’ve done your job well, and so will others.

What Are SMART Objectives?

Nothing happens until we plan, and good plans have crystal clear goals and objectives. Setting them correctly goes a long way in helping in achieving them. Before we dive into the principles of SMART objectives, we need to be aware of the difference between goals and objectives. Goals relate to our aspirations, purpose and vision. For example, I have a goal of becoming financially independent, this is a goal. Objectives are the battle plan, the stepping stones on the path towards the achievement of my goal. Therefore, a goal may have one or many objective that I would need to fulfill in order to achieve my goal. For example, to become financially independent I would need to 1) get out of debt, 2) improve my saving and 3) start a business.

The most well known method for setting objectives is the SMART way. The SMART approach is well understood amongst managers, but often poorly practiced. SMART refers to the acronym that describes the key characteristics of meaningful objectives, which are Specific (concrete, detailed, well defined), Measureable (numbers, quantity, comparison), Achievable (feasible, actionable), Realistic (considering resources) and Time-Bound (a defined time line). Lets look at these characteristics in more detail.

SMART objective then are the stepping stones to the achievement of our goals…


Specific means that the objective is concrete, detailed, focused and well defined. Specific means that it’s results and action-orientated. Objective must be straightforwards and emphasize action and the required outcome. Objectives need to be straightforward and to communicate what you would like to see happen. To help set specific objectives it helps to ask:

  • WHAT am I going to do? These are best written using strong, action verbs such as conduct, develop, build, plan, execute, etc. This helps your objective to be action-orientated and focused on what’s most important.
  • WHY is this important for me to do?
  • WHO is going to do what? Who else need to be involved?
  • WHEN do I want this to be complete?
  • HOW am I going to do this?

Diagnostic Questions

  • What exactly are we going to do, and why?
  • What strategies will be used?
  • Is the objective well understood?
  • Is the objective described with action verbs?
  • Is it clear who is involved?
  • Is it clear where this will happen?
  • Is it clear what needs to happen?
  • Is the outcome clear?
  • Will this objective lead to the desired results?


If the objective is measurable, it means that the measurement source is identified and we are able to track the actions as we progress towards the objective. Measurement is the standard used for comparison. For example, what “financially independent” means to me, may be totally different compared to what is means for you. As it’s so often said “if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it“. It’s important to have measures that will encourage and motivate you on the way as you see the change occurring. This may also require interim measures. Measurements go a long way to help us identify when we have achieved our objective, or how far we are from achieving it.

Diagnostic Questions

  • How will I know that the change has occurred?
  • Can these measurements be obtained?


Objectives need to be achievable. If the objective is too far in the future, you will find it difficult to keep yourself motivated and to strive to attain it. Objectives, unlike your aspirations and visions, need to be achievable to keep you inspired. I do feel that objectives need to stretch you, but not so far that you become frustrated and lose motivation.

Diagnostic Questions

  • Can we get it done in the proposed timeframe?
  • Do I understand the limitations and constraints?
  • Can we do this with the resources we have?
  • Has anyone else done this successfully?
  • Is this possible?


Objectives that are achievable may not necessarily be realistic. However, realistic does not mean easy. Realistic means that you have the resources to get it done. The achievement of an objective requires resources, such as, skills, money, equipment, etc. to the task required to achieve the objective. Whilst keeping objectives realistic, ensure that they stretch you. Most objectives are achievable but, may require a change in your priorities to make them happen.

Diagnostic Questions

  • Do you have the resources available to achieve this objective?
  • Do I need to revisit priorities in my life to make this happen?
  • Is it possible to achieve this objective?


Time-bound means setting a deadline for achievement of the objective. Deadlines need to be both achievable and realistic. If you don’t set a deadline, you will reduce the motivation and urgency required to execute the tasks. A timeframe creates the necessary urgency and prompts action.

Diagnostic Questions

  • When will this objective be accomplished?
  • Is there a stated deadline?

Writing Stanard Operating Procedures

A Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) is a written document / instruction detailing all steps and activities of a process or procedure. They contain step by step instructions for carrying out a certain action. SOPs can be effective catalysts to drive performance improvement and improving organizational results.

Here are some of the things one should keep in mind while writing a Standard Operating Procedure:

  • Use numbers when steps must be taken in order; otherwise, use bullets.
  • Use imperative sentences for action steps.
  • Write one action per step.
  • Identify main steps and provide detail in sub-steps.
  • Identify the person who will perform the step if other than the reader.
  • Start conditional steps with “If” or “When.”
  • Use bold and/or all caps for conditional steps that are critical or safety issues.
  • Limit branching, cross-references, or hyperlinks to action steps.
  • If possible, supplement the steps with a graphical representation / flowchart
  • Test the steps with end users.