How To Get $h!t Done with Responsibility Matrixes by JSF COO, Brian Dougherty

Nov 4, 2019

You’ve got to Get Shit Done (GSD) to be successful. It doesn’t matter if you’re a 3 person team trying to get an initial idea off the ground or a 100,000 employee Fortune 500 organization. If you can’t execute you’re toast. When issues like missed opportunities, employee dissatisfaction, and general failure to GSD rear their ugly heads, organizational leadership across the board consistently name the same dastardly villain as the number one cause: poor communication.

GSD Pioneers, circa 1999

Many view communication as an extremely complex and nuanced problem, but in the context of Getting Shit Done, it really comes down to achieving clear definition of three basic concepts:

  • What shit do we need to get done? (or for those with more delicate sensibilities, what objectives are your organization trying to accomplish?)
  • Why are we doing this shit?  (why were these objectives chosen and what benefit do we predict they will bring?)
  • How do we get shit done? (how do we go about accomplishing these objectives?)

This post assumes clear definitions of the “what” & “why” (objectives and rationale) and focuses on a tool that can be leveraged across your organization to get shit done: The Responsibility Matrix.

What is a Responsibility Matrix?

Responsibility Matrixes are frameworks for defining the tasks that must be executed, the roles that will execute those tasks, and a clear, concrete definition of responsibility across those roles and task deliverables. There are many different approaches to Responsibility Matrixes, such as RACI, RASCI, and CAIRO, but the RACI approach tends to be more than enough for most jobs and is what we’ll focus on today.

RACI matrices provide the following benefits:

1) Defined Universe of Tasks- If everyone is not on the same page of what tasks are required to complete the objective, then there is little chance of successful execution. The list of tasks and deliverables in a RACI matrix force you to define the universe of tasks concretely and ensure that everyone has the same understanding of what shit needs to get done.

2) Clear Expectations For All-  Ambiguity breeds conflict, particularly when there’s a lack of clarity around who’s doing which shit. RACI matrixes clearly define what part each role plays at the task level as follows:

(R)esponsible: Individuals that do the shit. Responsible roles do not have decision making authority to change tasks and are not on the hook for the overall success of the project. They are expected to execute and are beholden to the direction of the Accountable individual.

(A)ccountable: The SINGLE Individual that make sure the shit gets done and how. Much like The Highlander, there can be only one. This individual will be credited if the project is successful and will answer for the project if it fails. With this heavy responsibility comes ultimate decision making authority for the project. Granting a single individual with decision making authority and as the go-to person for questions from both team members and stakeholders, expedites decision making, consolidates communication, and ensures that the project stays on a single path of execution.

(C)onsulted- Individuals that will be consulted for guidance on the best way to do the shit. While this guidance may or may not be heeded by the accountable party (their ass is on the line so they get to make the call), specifying consulted roles ensures the expertise of all appropriate individuals is leveraged and reserves their availability to provide input.

(I)nformed- Individuals that should be notified that the shit is getting done, usually in the form of project status updates that include risks encountered and milestones achieved. Setting clear expectations for when and how management and other stakeholders are informed keeps them out of your hair so you can actually GSD.

3) Pinpoint Resource Bottlenecks- Once the universe of tasks are defined and assigned to roles, resource constraints quickly become apparent. If the same role or individual is assigned to a large number of tasks, then that role may need to be augmented with additional resources or tasks reassigned. If a key responsible or accountable resource is committed to a different project and is unable to commit the bandwidth necessary to be successful, then the plan requires modification.
Attempting to identify and explain resource overallocation without a Responsibility Matrix
Attempting to identify and explain resource overallocation without a Responsibility Matrix

Other creative ways to utilize a Responsibility Matrix

Responsibility matrixes really start to show their versatility and benefit when used creatively for different organizational functions or when combined with other tools. Here are some examples of kickass Responsibility Matrix recipes:

1) PMO Intake- Requiring project charters to include a RACI matrix for consideration forces the creator to consider the universe of tasks that must be completed and what roles are required instead of the usual “we’ll figure that out later.” As resource planning is a key function of any PMO when considering new initiatives and assessing risk, a Responsibility Matrix can really make resource overallocation jump off of the page.

2) Change Management-  Items requiring review by Change Management of an organization are generally high impact. Creating a RACI matrix that details the complete set of tasks to be executed and by which role can expose risk while providing a guide/playbook that can maximize the chance of successful implementation.

3) Employee Security- The best employees want clear expectations so that they can be sure they are crushing it at any given moment. Without it, individuals often worry that they may not be doing enough or focusing on the wrong things.  By building a RACI around day to day operational tasks and assigning them to the different roles of your team, your employees will be confident that they are focusing on the right things, know who to go to for guidance if stuck, and ultimately understand where they fit into your organization.  Clarity brings security and security brings productivity and retention.

4) Capability Maturity Models- This is  a bit of my first love of software development leaking over into my new love of operations, but Capability Maturity Models (CMM’s for short) are massively powerful for assessing the current state of processes and providing targets for their improvement. When you take an organizational level RACI matrix for day-to-day task execution and slap a CMM on top of it, you end up with an extremely clear blueprint of what tasks the organization completes, what roles are involved in completing them, what part those roles play, and to what extent those tasks are  repeatable, documented, tracked, and optimized for success. With this information, building an organizational improvement roadmap a breeze!

Life’s too short. Follow your dreams, take the plunge, get shit done, and have an impact. If you are interested in learning more about Jumpstart and the amazing things we are doing here to turbo-charge healthcare innovation, check us out at http://www, If you or someone you know has a kick-ass healthcare innovation startup that is looking for the money and connections to take it to the next level, skip ahead to

Finally, if this post struck a chord, chime in with a comment below, give us a share on the social media platform of your choice, or shoot me an email at


Brian joined Jumpstart Foundry as COO in September 2019 and has been Getting Shit Done. We wanted to pass along some of his advice, guidance and wit for everyone to benefit from. To learn more about Brian, click here.


1. The importance of understanding what you are setting out to accomplish and the reasons why cannot be understated. We’ll tackle that in another post, but if you want to get a head start check out goal management frameworks such as OKR’s (

2. Check out for more approaches and a far superior explanation of Responsibiltiy Matrixes.
Matrix Teaser.png

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