Clarifying Roles for Greater Success

Published January 19, 2022

I Thought YOU Were Doing That

You’ve probably seen it before. Lofty goals and program objectives are listed in a strategic plan, but just don’t seem to be met over time. Who was responsible? Well, no one really knows because the roles and responsibilities were never really defined.

While the sport system benefits from paid staff and experienced volunteers, there is often confusion as to who actually does what around a project, program, or initiative. When roles and responsibilities are not clearly understood, there are often hard feelings, duplication of work, gaps in delivery, micro-managing, poor or non-existent reporting, and resulting low-quality delivery. Retaining key volunteers and maintaining morale requires that people know their role, and understand how they add to the outcome.

The RACI Matrix

The need for clearly articulated roles and responsibilities is not unique to sport. The sport system can gain greatly from practices and models developed for complex project management in other sectors.

A RACI matrix is often used in project management to assign types of task responsibilities. This is a useful approach when identifying how various tasks might be organized to provide greater program sustainability and more engaged contributions from staff and volunteers.

In the RACI matrix, R (responsible) identifies the person who is charged with task responsibility. They typically “do the work”. A (accountable) is the person who is responsible for its completion; this is often a supervisor. If it isn’t done, A has dropped the ball. C (consulted) are those who provide advice and perspective to ensure the success of a task; often, the people consulted represent valued stakeholders. I (informed) are those who, though not directly involved in the task, will want to be kept in the loop.

Ideally, there is a single person for both R and C, though sometimes it may make sense to have more than one. In most instances, a single person or committee is responsible, and another is accountable. This attempts to avoid a lack of clarity on responsibilities and an “I thought it was your job” response when things are not completed.

Developing a RACI Matrix

I recently worked with a Provincial Sport Organization to develop a RACI matrix for one of their programs. The objective was to make the program sustainable after the retirement of a longtime leader. Here are the steps we took:

  1. Identified all program tasks: We started by breaking down all of the tasks that would be required in the program and categorizing them. Some tasks were related to competitions, athlete recruitment, administration, and high-performance development.
  2. Gap analysis: During the process, it became clear that some responsibilities needed to be redefined and some roles needed to be clarified. The retired leader had taken a number of tasks that were not immediately apparent to the organization but were important for program success. Some new tasks would be important for future directions and program growth.  
  3. RACI matrix development: By workshopping each of the tasks, we developed a RACI matrix that clarified who would be involved and how they would contribute. This clarity helped reshape job descriptions, program focus, committee responsibilities, and high-performance decision making.    

How this Helps

Many organizations develop great goals and objectives for their strategic plan yet stumble on implementation. Knowing who is doing what for each goal and related task helps an organization meet and exceed their targets. By developing a RACI matrix for your programs, you keep people focused on what they need to do to contribute to the team. You think through and document everyone’s role in reaching your stated goal. People appreciate that clarity and often become more engaged.

The RACI matrix helps to draft the terms of reference for committees, maximizing the benefit of volunteers. It can assist in drafting job descriptions and performance management. Since staff and volunteer turnover is not uncommon in the sport system, a clearly articulated roles and responsibility matrix for all programs can ensure that the program is sustainable and assist in onboarding new people. Not only do staff and volunteers know what their contribution is, they also understand what their role is not. This helps avoid the types of frustrations that can lead volunteers and staff to leave the organization.

Does Your Organization Need Clearer Roles and Responsibilities?

Is your organization struggling to implement its strategic plan? Perhaps clearer roles and responsibilities would help. Sport Law has expertise in helping organizations define who does what. Let us help you in putting in place the management tools that get your staff and volunteers working together to reach your goals and please reach out to Bruce Deacon at for your planning needs.

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