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Wikipedia with some quotes of a PM forum saying, that only one person should be accountable for a given task. But what to do in case of illness/vacation/leave? Is a "backup" person assumed?

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Your RAM would be more functional or useful if you were to use roles instead of a person. Therefore, if a person was to leave, you would not have to worry about keeping the RAM up-to-date with normal changes. Also, you would not even have to worry about normal (or abnormal) absences. Coverage for an individual's absence would be handled in your team charter or perhaps a procedure document but the RAM would always be accurate.

As an aside, RACI is a rather weak coding schema for the RAM. It is common in IT and the definition around responsible and accountable--which is synonymous--is bizarre. I use PARIS and have found stakeholder adoption to be improved. Primary, Approver, Reviewer, Informed, and Secondary.

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My take on this is that you declare one accountable person per task or activity. If that person is not available for some reason, you would either expect that person to delegate the accountability to someone (and communicate this) or, more likely, retain the accountability unless they expect to be away for a long time. If that person is both accountable and responsible, they may be more likely to delegate the responsibility for executing the task in their absence, but retain the overall accountability.

From a pragmatic point of view, ensuring that the same person keeps the accountability is, in my view, essential as otherwise you will, undoubtedly, end up in the situation where something has gone wrong round about the transition between individuals and neither will take ownership. If one person is accountable, that person cannot duck out and blame the other. This may seem harsh given that the issue may well have arisen in their absence, but I would argue that it is up to them to ensure that any actions done in their absence are done properly.

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  • "neither will take ownership" - why does anyone need to take ownership? What advantage is gained by pointing a finger?
    – Sarov
    Nov 8 '21 at 18:16
  • Sadly, if nobody takes ownership, nobody owns the fix. If something has gone wrong, someone needs to accept that they need to fix it. Otherwise it will stay broken, or a fight will develop about who needs to fix it. An accountable person takes away the issue,
    – Iain9688
    Nov 8 '21 at 18:21
  • RACI may not be necessary in an agile environment, however in a hierarchic organisation, especially in a waterfall project (which is where I spent most of my P.M. life), different teams had ownership of different things. Unix were not allowed to touch hardware or databases, Security couldn't touch the data, etc, and every team was measured by its own management. We needed the clarity that RACI provided.
    – Iain9688
    Nov 8 '21 at 18:40
  • According to one definition (ictshore.com/project-management/raci-alternatives) it means exactly that... Ownership of the outcomes.
    – Iain9688
    Nov 8 '21 at 18:45
  • Let us continue this discussion in chat.
    – Sarov
    Nov 8 '21 at 19:26
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Let's rewrite it as "... only one person should be accountable for a given task AT A TIME". When more than one person is assigned to a task, then it means that no one is assigned to that task.

When the assignee is not available to work, the task can be assigned to another person with a handover. You can do that handover quickly and seamlessly if you keep everything written on your online systems like;

  1. Task management systems
  2. Document management systems
  3. Knowledgebase systems
  4. Collaboration systems

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