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ARCI- A Powerful Clear Agreements Tool for Managers



There is an incredible tool that is useful in all areas of your life, regardless if you are an executive, a formal people manager or you are in a family leadership position. 

ARCI is a tool I teach to my executive teams when I’m doing executive team development and offsite training. 

It’s a framework. It’s a way of understanding the ‘who’ behind ‘who will do what by when,’ which is the keystone of high integrity and clear agreements.

Integrity breaches are one of the most destructive forces in organizations, teams, and families. 

When we don’t do what we say we’ll do, or when we create agreements that are vague, impossible to understand, ill-defined, or of low integrity, this leads to a lot of drama

Unchecked integrity breaches create unhealthy forms of conflict and strife, and take up a lot of time and energy. 

ARCI is a framework for understanding, developing, and tracking the structure of an agreement and how everyone involved is going to cooperate and coordinate action together. 

You can apply it to how a team generally operates. 

You can apply it to a process. 

You can apply it to a project. 

You can apply it to achieve a specific goal, and you can apply it to all different layers. 

With ARCI in your tool arsenal, you can start having breakthroughs in muddled situations in your work and home right away.

You may have heard of an acronym from the world of consulting called RACI, but I want to share with you my twist, ARCI. 

ARCI is a framework for understanding the structure of an agreement and how we’re going to cooperate and coordinate action together in a social unit, as a team. 

If you think about the nature of agreements in companies and organizations, one of the trickiest issues is knowing who’s supposed to be doing what or confusion as to who is responsible. 

Nobody’s doing it or everybody’s doing it, and you’re stepping on each other’s toes and doing work twice that doesn’t need to be done twice and perhaps going in different directions and building up a bunch of drama in the process. 

This tool helps clear that confusion up!

ARCI stands for Accountable, Responsible, Consulted, and Informed. 

Those are the four categories of people who can fall into this matrix called ARCI.

You can apply this process to ANY agreement. You can apply it to how a team generally operates. You can apply it to a process. You can apply it to a project. You can apply it to achieve a specific goal. Anything!

If you’re guiding a team through a process of defining annual company goals or doing OKRs for the quarter, then after you define those it’s time to fill out that ARCI and figure out who’s accountable, who’s responsible, who’s consulted, and who’s informed. 

You can clear up muddled situations at work or at home, or in any place where you’re trying to get something done with someone else. 

ARCI: Why Accountability Matters

The A in ARCI stands for the Accountable party. 

Here’s where there’s a rule– you’re only allowed to have one person in the accountable column of this matrix. 

What accountable means is that’s the individual who at the end of the day is accountable to the rest of the organization or to the rest of the people in that ARCI. 

They’re accountable for:

  • the results
  • the intended and unintended results
  • Implementation and any accidental process-related issues that come up along the way. 
  • They’re accountable for relaying back whether it happened or not 

In reality, we can only ever hold ourselves accountable. Others can’t hold you accountable if you don’t think you’re accountable. And that’s partly why this is such a valuable thing to define. 

So once you’ve raised your hand and said, “I will hold myself accountable. You can also hold me accountable. And I am accountable for this project. I am the one person that at the end of the day, I’m accountable.” 

That’s really key because now you won’t have finger-pointing. You’re not wondering who’s accountable. There’s that one person who takes ownership. Now that’s different from the person or persons who are signing up to actually do the work of fulfilling the agreement or getting it done. That is where responsibility comes in. 

ARCI: The Importance of Responsibility

Responsibility is the execution or implementation action-oriented column. 

You can have a lot of people in that responsible column. Often there are a lot of people involved in executing anything. If you have way too many people in that column, you might want to break down your ARCI a little bit more and get clear on what are the different aspects or steps here so that again, you can be really clear about who’s doing what. 

Responsible means you are doing it. You are raising your hand and saying, “I’m actually accountable to you guys and to myself for being the responsible party. I am the responsible party. I’m getting it done.”

Now, often you will have a person who is the accountable party and they also are responsible for some or all of the work, but it’s NOT the same thing. 

It’s useful to know when you’re kicking off any kind of project, that there’s this distinction between accountable and responsible because sometimes people are wary about raising their hand and saying, “I’ll be accountable,” because they think, “Well, I’ve got way too much on my plate to do that stuff.” It doesn’t necessarily mean you have to do it. That would be an assumption. 

You could be accountable, which means you’re going to make sure it gets done but that could mean you’re going to delegate it. You’re going to outsource it. You’re going to make sure that the project gets completed and relay that information to those who need to know, but you may or may not be boots on the ground getting it done. 

Get really clear on who should be accountable, who should be responsible, and if there is any crossover in those positions.

ARCI: The Consulted Element

Aspect number 3 of ARCI is Consulted. 

The consulted are those who everybody else– those who are responsible, those who are accountable- need to consult with to get advice, feedback, specific expertise or insights, or gather some data.

The consulted are not necessarily in charge of getting it done, nor are they the accountable party. They’re accountable for the counsel that they give, the consultation that they give, and how effective and true their consult is, but they’re not necessarily doing the stuff unless they’re also listed as responsible.

In review, you’ve got one person accountable. They’re saying, “I’m responsible for all of the results. I’m going to make sure that this thing happens. And I’m going to give you an account of what it is.” 

Then we have the R, responsible. They’re executing, implementing, actually getting it done. There may be one of those Rs who’s also accountable, but the Accountable person doesn’t necessarily have to do the R. So you can consider those separate. Then there’s the Consulted. They’re bringing new information expertise. 

ARCI: Everyone Needs to be Informed 

The last category in the ARCI framework is the Informed. 

All that’s needed with the informed is to let them know what’s going on and what happened. Whatever it is that you’re saying, they need to be informed about it. The key thing here is it doesn’t mean that they’re consulting. They’re just informed, which means that you can move forward on the project and inform them when that makes the most sense. And it may be that you inform them after the thing got done, and maybe you inform them along the way. 

Get clear with your team on what that means. Who are those stakeholders who need to be informed? Who needs to be informed about what and when and by what means? How does that need to happen?

Common ARCI Problems

There are some common situations where agreements go haywire and chaos ensues. 

One is there’s often confusion or collapsing of the Consulted and Informed.

This is a complaint I hear a lot of times about those who are new to the workforce coming in and feeling like they are supposed to give advice on everything. When one is being informed it’s important to clarify whether you’re also asking for consultation or not. 

Another piece of confusion I often see is people thinking that someone’s responsible, but that person only believes that they’re responsible for consultation. ARCI is a new lens for you to add to what it means to have a Clear Agreement in a team setting.

Finally, I also see confusion between the A and the R. Sometimes there’s no accountable party or everyone thinks accountable, and everyone wants to be that person who’s at the end of the day going to get the credit for the results, or is in charge of the results. Everyone gets credit for what they do in my book. You actually do something, you get some credit, but it’s not the same thing. To be accountable is really, really different from being responsible. Again, you can be both, but it’s very important to distinguish those two. 

Clear up the confusion in simple ways! I write it up on a big poster board, plainly visual. That makes the light bulbs go off, and executive teams at very successful companies say, “Oh my gosh, we don’t know who’s accountable for what.” What a simple way to clear up so much confusion and drama!

Tools like ARCI super boost your leadership and help you consciously navigate team dynamics. 

Photography by Kelley Raye //

Dr. Caneel Joyce is a CEO Coach and social scientist who helps people break out of the invisible traps and make whole-life changes easily and naturally.

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