Responsibility Assignment Matrix (RAM) and Contractor Growth

A responsibility matrix is a simple but powerful tool for helping everyone on a project and in the company see who is responsible for what. With a few added columns, it can easily indicate when, what tools, and link to the "how-to" procedures.

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Frontline job roles are a collection of related initiating events, tasks, meetings, and decisions that someone is responsible for.

Management roles add in accountability for the work done by others along with team development, and these still come down to initiating events like escalations, tasks to be done - such as quality control (QC) or quality assurance (QA), meetings to lead or attend, such as resource planning or one-on-one meetings with team members - and decisions to make. 


 

A responsibility matrix is integrated with:

  1. Organizational charts showing hierarchical reporting relationships and the organization of the business or project. Think about these as the basic elevation drawings, site plans, and floor plans of a project.
  2. Workflow diagrams that show the connection (flow) between tasks and decisions across functional areas including externally. Think about these like the P&ID or motor control ladder diagrams on a project. It is easy to see excessive complexity if you have too many crossed-up lines or gaps in the process if you are missing connections.
  3.  Job Role Descriptions at various levels from those used for recruitment marketing through the more detailed ones that would be used to design interview guides, selection testing, and job offers. Think about these like the trade-specific specifications, drawings, bid scopes, and contracts. Think about how many gaps there are between these trade drawings and how much that costs. At the business level, this is the same thing except we don't have clearly defined processes for bid leveling, submittals, RFIs, and changes. 
  4. Procedures describe specifically how a task is to be done and may include best practice guidelines along with other tips and tricks. The construction document equivalent are the detail drawings and installation manuals for specific pieces of equipment. 
  5. Standard Work (Operating Rhythms) indicates when various tasks and meetings should occur. For example, what are the normal daily tasks of a Foreman or Superintendent and when should they do them? The weekly tasks? On a project, this is the equivalent of the owner meetings, site coordination meetings, safety meetings, billing cycle, etc.

The construction document (CD) equivalent of a responsibility matrix are docs like a door and hardware schedule, equipment schedule, and tools like the bid leveling matrices used to compare scopes and price. 


 

Beyond an 'X' in the matrix, you will want to define some responsibility levels. Some common ones to start with are RACI:

  • RESPONSIBLE: The person(s) directly accountable for the correct completion of the task or decision - the deliverable. There will always be at least one role with a participation type of responsible for a line item in the matrix. If multiple roles are defined as responsible, ensure that the procedures and workflows show the differences. The work can be delegated but the responsibility for completion remains with this role. 
  • ACCOUNTABLE: The job role who is ultimately answerable for the correct and thorough completion of the deliverable, task, or decision outcome. This accountability includes ensuring the prerequisites of the task are met and delegates work to those responsible. Think about the prerequisites of a task assigned to the craft workforce in the field.
  • CONSULTED: Those roles and even specific individuals whose opinions are sought, typically subject-matter experts (SMEs), and with whom there is a two-way conversation. This two-way conversation is critical as often both parties are learning something. There may be both pre-defined and ad-hoc times when someone is consulted about a task or decision. 
  • INFORMED: Those who are kept up-to-date on progress (start, milestones, completion) and problems including pre-defined escalation points.

You can expand on these categories, but we would recommend KISS (Keep it Simple, ....) until you have a simple RACI working consistently across a whole project or functional area of the company for at least six-plus months before making these categories more granular.

In practice, we see most of the challenges with (1) getting a basic integration of the business documents as outlined above and (2) the discipline of management to follow them consistently. 


 

NOTES ABOUT USE OF A RESPONSIBILITY MATRIX

  1. There are accountabilities and consulted relationships that are inherent just in the hierarchy of the organizational structure. Every supervisory or managerial level role is accountable for the output of the team that works for them. Unless specifically defined otherwise, every situation requiring escalation or consultation should be directed up. That is part of the value-add of the manager. 
  2. Only define accountability on the RACI if it is (1) outside the normal hierarchy of the org structure and/or (2) there is a defined QC/QA task that the person accountable is expected to do, which increases predictability that the task is completed correctly.
  3. Only define consulted on the RACI if it is (1) outside the normal hierarchy of the org structure and/or (2) there are explicitly defined conditions when someone would be consulted. Define what consulted looks like – what is the value-add in both directions. For example, if we are bidding a project beyond a certain criteria, you may want to be consulted. 
    1. Your value-add to others may be how to analyze risk and reward. 
    2. The value-add to you might be that you learn about new customers, markets, project types, competitors, etc. that help shape your model of the market and make strategic decisions. 
  4. Only define informed on the RACI if there is the expectation that a role(s) knows the information, including how they would know. Sending a report out is only half-informed. Be just as clear about the expectations from the receivers of the report about what you expect them to gain from the report, how, and why. 
  5. Only tailor the company-standard RACI to a particular project, customer, or market IF it adds material value, including being a contractual requirement. Don’t tailor for individual preference of managers or that will impact your ability to standardize training for roles as well as the ability to move people around the organization. Weigh out a small optimization at the market, customer, project, or team level against the benefit of company level standards.
  6. As someone is being developed for future roles, their manager should choose to progressively delegate more tasks from future potential roles to them over time. 
    1. Don’t start developing someone for future roles until they have demonstrated a high level of proficiency at the tasks they are responsible for in their current role. This includes demonstrated consistent execution and possibly the demonstrated ability to train others to do those tasks.  
    2. Don’t change the responsibilities of the person in the role they are being developed for. Responsibility does not change - it is just being delegated to someone else for their development but responsibility still lies with the person who is currently in the role.
    3. Once a person has demonstrated consistent execution of most of the tasks and decisions for a future role, they can then be safely promoted along with the appropriate compensation change. While they are learning, the total cost of doing the task to the company is very high because of the combination of training and QA/QC being invested. Responsibility, Results, and Compensation
  7. Most of the standards you apply to “Effective Tasking” on a project apply to the tasks on the RACI Matrix. This includes how you would sequence tasks, batch them together, and synchronize timing. Looking at the equivalent of "Percent Planned Complete" each week is a great management tool at all levels beyond a project to help see what is keeping things from getting done - capacity, capabilities, prerequisites, etc.
  8. Laying out all the specific tasks, meetings, and decisions required for a major part of your business model such as the Project Value Stream (PVS) by job role will help you identify gaps, redundancies, and capacity overload pretty quickly. Like a bid leveling sheet, this is where it is very important to get very granular in the scopes to ensure there are both zero gaps that you will eat into your margin and zero overlap that will make you less competitive. 

 


 

WISDOM FROM THE "FATHER" OF THE NUCLEAR NAVY

“Responsibility is a unique concept...

You may share it with others, but your portion is not diminished. 

You may delegate it, but it is still with you...

If responsibility is rightfully yours, no evasion, or ignorance or passing the blame can shift the burden to someone else.

Unless you can point your finger at the person who is responsible when something goes wrong, then you have never had anyone really responsible.”

― Hyman G. Rickover (Retired Admiral, US Navy)

 



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