Who’s on first?

abbott_and_costelloSad to say, many change initiatives start out with great ideas, energy and high engagement before they dissolve into confusion, frustration or apathy. In fact, I have been in change meetings that sounded like the classic bit by Abbott & Costello.

What I have discovered, as I am sure you have, is that bringing groups together from different divisions, functions and initiatives leads to conversations that are as fruitful as Abbott and Costello’s. Yet, the challenges we face in higher education, and most other fields these days, require collaboration and cross-initiative integration to find long-term success. When groups and individuals don’t understands each other, then no one knows who’s job it is to do what, who gets to decide and why, when we have decided, why we are even doing it, what we are actually doing, or just plain “who’s on first?”

As Scott Keller and Colin Price, from McKinsey & Company, describe in Beyond Performance, successful transformation requires clear structure and ownership. Helping your teams discuss and document accountability, decision-rights, and roles allows cross-functional teams to understand each other better and take action. A tool that can help provide that structure and ownership and develop the capacity for successful change is the RACI matrix.

For key tasks, actions, decisions and events that drive the change identify who is:

  • Responsible – makes recommendations, will be doing it, responsible for getting it done
  • Accountable – makes the decision, gives approval, has the authority
  • Consulted – subject-matter experts, crucial stakeholders with information needed before decision is made
  • Informed – stakeholders, groups, individuals who will be affected by the decision or need to be aware of the event

Consistent use of a tool like the RACI matrix will support the development of a powerful change engine that has the capacity to take action and drive success. HARMON KILLEBREWEveryone will know who is on first and why!

Todd Thorsgaard


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