Episode #62: How to Use ARCI – A Powerful Tool for Managers, Teams and Leaders
So today I’m going to share with you one of my favorite tools. This is a tool that I teach to my executive teams when I’m doing executive team development and offsites and trainings. And it’s really useful, regardless of if you are an executive or even in a formal people manager leadership position. This is a useful tool to apply in all areas of your life. It’s a framework. It’s a way of understanding the who behind who will do what by when, which is the keystone of a clear, clean agreement.
Welcome to Allowed. I’m your host, Caneel Joyce. Thanks so much for showing up today, whether you’re listening or watching our videos. It’s great always for you to take this time for yourself. I really, really do appreciate you treating your own gifts and your own value as something to be invested in and nurtured, and you taking the time to do things like listening to this podcast and doing your practices, whatever they are for you, that makes a direct impact on the things that matter most to all of us on the earth. I really believe that when we all put our own unique gifts forward and we share them and we don’t reserve them, that we together really can solve all these big problems that we face as a society. And geez, isn’t life just so much more fun? So I’m just so grateful to you for taking that and taking your gifts, as preciously as I think that they are for you.
Today, we are going to continue our conversation that we’ve had already a couple of episodes on, focused on integrity. We had one episode about what integrity is, why it matters, how to feel it in your body, and use your body as an instrument to help you connect to what the path of integrity is for you. In the next episode, we talked about how to create clear unarguable agreements that are high in integrity themselves. These are agreements where you have a whole body, yes, as we discussed way back in episode 39, but also these are agreements that have specific attributes that make them easy to be accountable for, to talk about, to not be in drama around, and if needed to renegotiate those agreements so that you can get back into integrity if there is a lapse in integrity. Now integrity is a life-giving force. Integrity is what gives you a sense of aliveness and alignment. When you’re in integrity with yourself, you are vibrant and strong and whole, and you’re open to receiving all of the good things that life is wanting to flow through you. So, it matters. It matters a lot.
Now, conversely, integrity breaches are one of the most destructive forces in organizations and teams and families. When we don’t do what we say we’ll do, when we create agreements that are vague and impossible to understand, ill-defined, low integrity agreements, all of those things, those lead to lots and lots of drama. Now, why would we ever do such things? Why would we ever fall out of integrity? Well, usually it’s because we were in drama to begin with. We make up a bunch of stories about people being victims, or we fail to really just own what is in our own unique zone of genius. And we fall into an integrity breach. And this creates unhealthy forms of conflict and strife, and it takes up a lot of time and energy. And it’s certainly not the most valuable use of your creative gifts. And this is why I care so much about integrity.
So today I’m going to share with you a useful tool called ARCI, A-R-C-I, and it’s a slight twist on one that you might have heard of before from the world of consulting called RACI. The acronym stands for the same things, but I put the letters in a different order and there’s a reason for that, which I’ll explain in a moment. So 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, meaning there is more than one individual here.
And if you think about the nature of agreements in companies and nonprofits and organizations and government, this is one of the trickiest issues, is well we don’t really know who’s supposed to be doing what or I thought you were doing it. I thought you were doing it. 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. So I love, love, love this tool.
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 to any agreement at all. 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 achieving a specific goal, and you can apply it to all different layers. So often if I’m guiding a team through a process of defining, say their annual company goals, or we’re doing OKRs for the quarter, then after we’ve got that defined, then we go into, okay, let’s fill out that ARCI and let’s figure out who’s accountable, who’s responsible, who’s consulted and who’s informed. So I’m going to get into each of these categories of people, and I think you’re going to start having some ahas right away about some muddled situations you may have ever been in at work or at home, or in any place where you’re trying to get something done with someone else. It’s pretty remarkable.
So the A is accountable, 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, both of the thing being implemented and any accidental process related issues that come up along the way. They’re accountable for it. They’re accountable for relaying back, here’s an account of what happened. I’m going to tell you, did this thing that we agreed to do, did it actually happen or not? And at the end of the day, I am the one who, if I’m accountable, I am the one who needs to explain that to everybody else.
Now we all know in reality, we can only ever hold ourselves accountable. Others can’t hold me accountable if I don’t think I’m accountable. And that’s partly why this is such a valuable thing to define. So once I’ve raised my hand and I say, “I will hold myself as accountable. You can also hold me as 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. So then we don’t have finger pointing. We’re not wondering who’s accountable. There’s just that one person who’s got to really take some 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.
So the execution or implementation action oriented column, that would be R. That’s responsible. And you can have a lot of people in that responsible column. Often there’s a lot of people involved in executing on anything. I would say, if you have way too many people in that column, you might want to break down your ARCI a little bit more fine grained and get clear on what are the different aspects or steps here so that again, you can be really clear who’s doing what. So responsible means I am doing it. I’m getting it done. I am raising my 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. So I could be accountable, which might mean I’m going to make sure it gets done and I’m going to delegate it. I’m going to outsource it. I am going to make sure that the project actually gets completed and that we relay that to those who need to know, but I may or may not be actually boots on the ground getting it done. So this is a useful thing 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. So just get really clear on where is the genuine willingness, what actually is aligned, what makes sense, who should be accountable, who should be responsible and should there be any sharedness in those positions.
All right. Now that brings us to position number three, which is the C for consulted. The consulted are those who everybody else, those who are responsible, those who are accountable, they need to consult with those individuals, perhaps to get some advice, some feedback, some specific expertise or some insights, or gather some data, whatever it is, they need to consult with them. But the consulted, they’re not necessarily in charge of getting it done, nor are they the accountable party. Yes, they’re accountable for everything that they do. They’re accountable for the counsel that they give, the consultation that they give and how effective and true and all of that, that their consult is, but they’re not necessarily doing the stuff unless they’re also in the R column, unless they’re also listed as responsible.
All right. So just to review, we’ve got the one person in 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 the A, who’s also accountable, but the A person doesn’t necessarily have to do the R. So you can consider those separate. Then there’s the C. That one is consulted. They’re bringing new information expertise. Now everybody upstream from them, the As and the Rs, they are responsible, accountable for doing that consultation. You can’t move forward without that consultation. Again, here’s where it’s good to be really specific about what kind of consultation, when will it happen, who exactly in that column is going to do it. The more clear you can get on that, the better.
The last category in the ARCI framework is I. I stands for informed. This is my favorite one to talk about. The I parties, that’s the informed. So all that’s needed with them 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. Key thing here is it doesn’t mean that they’re consulting. It doesn’t mean that anybody upstream from them, the As, the Rs and the Cs, need to get their input per se, unless they are also in the C column. So they’re just informed, which means that you can move forward on the project and you can inform them at the time 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 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?
The common things I see in organizations where this tool is transformative, these are some common situations I see where agreements go haywire and chaos ensues. One is there’s often a confusion, a confounding, or a collapsing of these last two, the C and the I. 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. I think that it’s often not clear who is, when one is being informed, are you actually asking for consultation or not? So this often is confusion about am I consulting, or am I in the informed class here? Which one of those two? So that’s where some confusion can happen, and it’s really useful just to let people know which one they’re in.
Another piece of confusion I often see is people thinking that someone’s responsible, but they only believe that they’re responsible for consultation. So this is that typical thing. Well, this guy just walks in and he tells everyone what to do and how to do it, but he doesn’t actually get anything done. Well, maybe that’s because he’s in the C column, and that would sure be useful for everyone to know. And again, this is just one more further breakdown of clear agreements. It’s one 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. Again, I mentioned that before, that 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. So in my experience, this tool, I usually teach it fairly briefly just as I taught it with you. I write it up on a big poster board. This is the one 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.”
This is such an easy, easy, easy tool. I’ve been referencing these columns. I usually put it in a spreadsheet and I’ve got the steps or aspects of a project or a process lifted in the rows on the left-hand side. And then I’ve got A-R-C-I going across the top. You can even do this for a job description. In this job, you are accountable for this, responsible for this, consulting on this, and you’re going to be informed about these things. That makes one’s role really, really clear. And then it’s very useful to know these things so that you’re not having to figure it out by reading the tea leaves all the time when you start to get a new job. So, super useful tool, always easy to bring it in.
Sometimes there’s enough habit around something where you don’t need to create an ARCI because it’s the same ARCI every time. And when there is confusion, or it seems like something might be going off with the project, it’s useful to say, “Let’s make an ARCI. And even what if we all filled out an ARCI at the same time, and we see how much we are on or not on the same page about who goes in which column, and do we even have all the stakeholders in here that need to be in here? Or do we have way too many?” Lots of times it can feel hard to get to that one, singular A person because there’s drama, because there’s drama of some kind, someone’s seeing someone as a victim, or they’re afraid of being a victim because someone else is a villain. They don’t want to be blamed. Oh, we’ll both be accountable. I’m sorry, not if you hired me. You’re going to pick one.
You’re going to pick one because there’s clarity, and being accountable doesn’t mean that you need to be in trouble, as long as you’re operating in a way that’s not drama based. And that’s what the whole rest of this show is all about. So you can go back and listen to lots of past episodes about drama, how to know you’re in it, how to know if your team is in it, and how to shift out and what all the possibilities are when we actually get creative. So I love ARCI. It sounds like a geeky kind of tool. It sounds like a very businessy consulting-ish tool. I noticed as I was recording this, listening to myself and thinking, I sound like a really productive person, but it’s funny. If you really, really knew me, you’d know that things are pretty scattered around me a lot of the time.
I think maybe that’s why I like this tool so much. I think you will too. I’ve never seen it fail. I’ve never seen a team not take it on and spread it through the whole company and use it again and again and again. You’re going to love it. We will be offering you some show notes on this so that you can get all of that broken down so it can be very easy for you also to share with your teammates if you want a reminder. Please use it, spread the word. If you haven’t yet subscribed to the show, I’d love for you to subscribe. We are going to have further topics around leadership and leading through clear agreements and how to create integrity in organizations. And if you subscribe, you’ll also be able to easily access the previous episodes that I referenced here today. Go and open your player right now, hit subscribe. That’s so, so helpful in helping others to find the show.
It really helps us in pursuing our mission of helping each and every one of you really become the leaders of your own life as you already are, but to own it, to really own it and to be the creator of that which you want to create and which you are here to create. So I truly believe that you bringing your gifts and honoring them as much as I do is what we all need to do if we’re going to pull together and address some of society’s greatest challenges. So thank you so much for taking the time to learn something hopefully new and interesting and inspiring today. I really hope this brought you some clarity. Please do share and recommend this show to others. That is very helpful for getting the world on the same page with you. And now you’ve got a team of champions that you can be in dialogue with about this stuff.
I have so many exciting announcements coming up for you around some programs, offerings, an event, and a community that we are kicking off soon. So if you haven’t yet learned about those things, please go to caneel.com or AllowedPodcast.com, where you can find out more. I can’t wait to share that news once it’s ready to go. So you can learn more about those programs at caneel.com/yes. We will post everything new there as soon as it’s hot off the presses and ready for you. All right. Thank you so much for being here. Have a wonderful day, and I’ll see you next week.