The Responsibility Assignment Matrix (RAM)

Knowing Where the Buck Ultimately Stops

Responsibility Assignment Matrix

© iStockphoto/joxxxxjo

It takes a lot of effort to keep a large project running smoothly. With a large number of variables, people, and deliverables, it’s hard to keep on top of everything that’s happening. Consider the following scenario:

Hal (the distressed project manager): "What do you mean, we don’t have the test results yet?! What has Katy been doing? Get Katy!"

Katy: "No, Hal, I wasn’t responsible for getting that done. Joan has more expertise in that area, remember? I’ll ask Joan what happened."

Joan: "Gee, Katy, I know I have more experience with these reports, but I was waiting for you to contact me so we could review them together."

Do you recognize anyone you know? This type of situation is repeated daily in organizations across the globe. And most of the time, there’s no incompetence or bad intentions involved. More often, problems like this are the result of inadequate planning and poor communication.

Successful projects have a clear breakdown of who is ultimately responsible for each aspect of the project. Without clear, written, and agreed-upon accountability, it’s far too easy to for communication to fail and for responsibilities to be muddled.

So how do you avoid this?

Developing a Responsibility Assignment Matrix

One tool that project managers use to keep these assignments clear is the Responsibility Assignment Matrix (also called the RAM, or the Responsibility Matrix). This matches deliverables with the people who are responsible for them. For every piece of the project, the matrix shows who needs to contribute what for the project to be completed.

For example, let’s say that you’re upgrading your customer service delivery system, and you need to train your staff to use new procedures and tools.

Step One: Define Your Deliverables

Using a Work Breakdown Structure  , you define three key deliverables for this training project, with a few subcategories for each:

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