Problem statement:

I've started on a new team in which there is lack of clarity around roles and responsibilities so I'm leading some RACI definition exercises.

For a few key activities, there are two different teams that feel their director should be accountable.

What I need:

  • I'm looking for techniques on how to evaluate who should be accountable and then get alignment from all teams involved.

About the business:

  • The organization has several programs to which people can apply to receive funding for their innovation projects.

The deliverables / activities in contention:

  • The business requirements and the functional requirements of a major digital transformation project

The teams in contention:

  1. The Business Architecture team. This is a very new team to the organization and, thus, they haven't yet clearly conveyed their role versus other teams that have been around for a long time. So far the team has been focused mainly on developing the Business Capability Matrix and Blueprint / Target Operation Model as per the Managing Successful Programmes methodology.
  2. The Operations team. This team oversees all the work done to review applications against qualification criteria and determine who gets what funding. The team uses the guidelines produced by the Program Guidance team.

Again, my question is not about who should be accountable but more so how to get the teams on this project (both the teams in contention and supporting teams) to align on who should be accountable since we keep going in circles with the discussions.

In particular, I'm looking for some hands-on exercises in the spirit of Design Thinking to see if that would be more effective than the discussions.

  • 1
    This reads less like an accountability issue and more like a power issue. It seems like the teams are fighting for control and power. Commented May 18, 2022 at 12:10

4 Answers 4


It's possible for more than one team to be responsible for an activity - i.e. they perform it - however it is not normally the case that more than one team (or person) should be ultimately accountable for ensuring it is done correctly, effectively, and efficiently.

Without knowing your specific situation, it is difficult to provide any specific guidance but I would suggest that you look again at the granularity of the activities. It could be that by breaking down the activities to a lower level - or even (less likely) combining them into higher level activities, you can find that there is more consensus on who is accountable for the individual activities.



For a few key activities, there are two different teams that feel their director should be accountable.

They don't get to "feel" about this. Accountability in a RACI sense is a function of organizational structure and appropriate delegation of authority from executive leadership. If the lines of accountability are unclear then executive leadership needs to get involved.

Accountability should either be defined by policy, clearly delegated by executive leadership, or formally authorized by a role or steering body that is empowered to delegate some or all of its own accountability for a given activity. If the roles that are accountable for specific items remain unclear, then the role ultimately accountable for the company's "major digital transformation project" needs to define and communicate the delegated accountabilities more effectively.

Organizationally, Accountability is Delegated or Assigned

It sounds like both teams (and you) are confusing accountability and responsibility. In a standard RACI matrix, the roles for responsibility and accountability are defined as:

Those who do the work to complete the task. There is at least one role with a participation type of responsible, although others can be delegated to assist in the work required[.]
The one ultimately answerable for the correct and thorough completion of the deliverable or task, the one who ensures the prerequisites of the task are met and who delegates the work to those responsible. In other words, an accountable must sign off (approve) work that responsible provides. There must be only one accountable specified for each task or deliverable.

There are certainly other models, but if you're doing RACI then you are drawing a distinction between responsibility (which pragmatically means "the task performers" in a RACI context) and accountability, which in most real-world contexts means the oversight role or budgetary authority for "responsible."

In the case of accountability, this should not be a case of alignment or consensus. In most companies of any significant size, this type of accountability is delegated through various means, but ultimately comes from the operating authority of executive management. For example, a CISO, CIO, or CITO with a compliance mandate might delegate some or all of the company's PCI DSS compliance to a specific officer, role, or team, who is then accountable to that officer for ensuring that the compliance requirements are met in a satisfactory way by whoever is doing the actual work (e.g. the responsible roles or teams). The accountable role is the one on the hook for ensuring the work is done, fit for purpose, and meets objectives, but is it not inherently the role that performs the tasks needed to deliver the objective.

If teams want to fight over "who gets the blame when stuff doesn't get done," you have a culture problem. The line of delegated authority should be clearly defined from the top down, meaning that it is the job of executive leadership or a suitably-empowered steering body to assign accountability.

In the case of a "major digital transformation project" that likely affects the entire company, someone at the executive level should already be sponsoring the initiative and is likely the source of accountability for the overall program. If you don't already know who that is, or don't have a direct line of communications with them, then you should start by talking to your immediate leadership and ask them to assist in untangling the lines of delegated accountability.

Treating this as a consensus-building exercise is a non-starter, simply because it is an organizational gap that must be resolved at the organizational leadership level. Collaboration and soft-power influence are great tools, especially in an agile context, but they are not usually the right solutions for structural problems that can only be solved through appropriate delegation of authority.


I would try an exercise like this:

Ask the teams to imagine a newspaper headline. You could actually mock one up if you like, but possibly just imagining it is good enough. The headline reads:

"[Your Company]'s Digital Transformation Project Misses Every KPI"

Sub-headline: "Director Fired"

Ask the teams to discuss which director they think should be fired, and why.

My hunch is that this should bring some clarity to the question of who should be Accountable.


I think both directors in both teams should be made accountable for whatever role their team has to play in the project,making sure the responsible person or team knows the expectations of the project and completes work on time.this would help them come together and review better ways to resolve setbacks and brainstorm new ways to move the project forward.

Click here to get more insight on this ;https://www.forbes.com/advisor/business/raci-chart/

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