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How to Develop a Responsibility Assignment Matrix

Project managers like to use a Responsibility Assignment Matrix (RAM) to define the roles of the various project team members. Despite the straightforward nature of the information included in the RAM, getting everyone to agree on people’s roles can be time-consuming. The following steps can help you get people’s input and approval with the least time and effort:

  1. Identify all people who’ll participate in or support your project.

  2. Develop a complete list of deliverables for your project.

  3. Discuss with all team members how they’ll each support the work to produce the different project deliverables.

    For each of their assignments, discuss the level of their responsibility and authority, as well as the specific work they’ll perform. Also discuss with them any involvement that others will have on their activities. If specific people haven’t yet been identified for certain activities, consult with people who have done those types of activities before.

  4. Prepare an initial draft of your RAM.

    Draw the table for your chart, and enter your project’s deliverables in the left-hand column and the people who will support the activities in the first row. In the cells formed by the intersection of each row and column, enter the roles that each person will have (based on the discussions you have with your team members in Step 3).

  5. Have the people whom you consulted in Step 3 review and approve your draft chart.

    If people agree with the chart, ask them to indicate their agreement in writing. If they express concerns about some aspects, ask them to note their concerns in a memo or an e-mail.

  6. If some of your team members don’t approve the draft chart, revise the chart to address their concerns and ask all people who gave input to review and approve the revised chart.

    If you make any changes to the draft RAM, have all your team members review and approve the revised chart, especially if they already approved the prior version.

  7. Go back to Step 5 and continue the process until everyone you consulted in Step 3 approves the chart.

For complex projects, the RAM can be quite large. And keeping the chart current and consulting throughout the project with all the people identified can be time-consuming. However, having a chart with incorrect information can result in duplicated efforts and overlooked activities.

Follow these suggestions to keep your RAM accurate and current throughout the project.

  • Develop a hierarchy of charts: Including 50 or more activities on the same RAM can be cumbersome, so consider developing a series of nested charts for larger projects (also known as a hierarchy of charts). Prepare a high-level chart that identifies responsibilities for higher-level components in your Work Breakdown Structure (such as project phases and major deliverables), and then develop separate charts that detail responsibilities for lower-level deliverables and work packages.

  • Get input from everyone involved: Involve the entire team when developing your chart. As the project manager, you don’t know exactly how people should perform tasks in their areas of specialty, so you need to ask them. And, even if you do know, people have a greater commitment to a plan when they participate in developing it.

  • Put your RAM in writing: You may think you can save time by not putting your RAM in writing. However, putting the chart in writing is essential for two reasons:

    • You can see possible problems in your project that you may have overlooked if you were considering pieces of information separately.

    • You ensure that people have a common understanding of their roles and relationships.

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