RACI, Stakeholder Management & Airline Turbulence

Would *you* be surprised if a pilot asked you whether it was safe to fly?

I travelled on an internal flight to Edinburgh recently and it was foggy and raining.  It was a little turbulent, but I’m pleased to say that we landed safely. As a passenger, I was a very important “stakeholder” of the airline, but they did not ask me if it was a good idea to fly or not. The decision was (quite rightly) made without consulting me, and I took it on trust that those responsible had made the right decision.

Stakeholder management is an important part of any project. There will usually be many interested parties who need to be represented.   An effective way of categorising these stakeholders can be to use a RACI matrix, arranging them into the following groups against each milestone or deliverable:

Responsible
Accountable
Consulted
Informed

It can sometimes be tempting to include a large number of stakeholders in the consulted category.  By trying to cover “all the angles” the number of names in the consulted category can quickly expand.

As Business Analysts and change practitioners, we know that engagement and communication are key to the success of a project.  But it is only worth consulting with people who have the right knowledge and are able to affect outcomes. In other words, it is essential that we ensure we are working with the right people, at the right time.

For example, I would have been shocked and surprised if before flight BE773 to Edinburgh, the pilot had presented himself and said:

“Right guys, I think it’s OK to fly, but it’s a little windy.  You are important stakeholders – what do you think? Shall we fly, or delay for an hour?”

This situation seems unimaginable, however similar situations occurs in projects all the time.  Have you ever been to a decision making meeting where the conversation was circular, or where no decision was made? Perhaps it was because the wrong people were in the meeting.  Perhaps their presence was the equivalent of the airline asking for my opinion about whether flight BE773 should fly.

When completing a RACI matrix, it is worth being ruthless with the “Consulted” category, and generous with the “Informed” category.  It is better to keep a wide range of stakeholders informed, but only rely on a few for consultation. And I also believe it’s worth asking stakeholders whether they need to be consulted, and if so whether there are any specific areas of the project in which they have a particular interest.  Using these approaches will increase the chances of talking to the right people at the right time.

Stakeholder management is so very important, and when mixed with a well composed engagement plan, can contribute to the success of the project.  Just watch out for the ‘C’ in RACI!

Many thanks to Robert Myers for his creative input and thorough review of this piece

Do you have any views on Stakeholder management, or any techniques to share?  I’d love to hear them, feel free to post a reply to this post, or contact me directly.

2 thoughts on “RACI, Stakeholder Management & Airline Turbulence”

  1. Very interesting post Adrian, very sensible and well presented points. Being ruthless with the Consulted category is a great takeaway message. Right people, right time is often missed on a lot of projects, although as a side note sometimes it’s the right people but they’re either not prepared, or not empowered to make a decision.

  2. Thanks, Adrian, I love the example of the airline pilot seeking consultation from the passengers! I do a lot of work in “loosely coupled systems” like health care systems and universities, and the proliferation of “c’s” or even “a’s” can really bog down decision-making processes. It’s why I love the RACI tool and use it a lot in my consulting. If you like it too, you might want to know about the training materials I’ve developed to teach RACi, or check out my blog at http://www.RACItraining.com. I look forward to reading more of your posts! Cassie

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