What Is a Responsibility Assignment Matrix?

Alex Newth

A responsibility assignment matrix is used in project management as a way to assign tasks to employees. There is often more than one person assigned to each task, and each person fills a different role. Some of the roles include the person actually doing the job, the person accountable for decisions made about the job, and people who must be notified before anything else is done. The responsibility assignment matrix takes care of this by telling everyone who is doing what and where blame should be allocated if something goes wrong. Codes are often used on the matrix, but there is no particular code standard with which all such matrixes are filled out.

Businesswoman talking on a mobile phone
Businesswoman talking on a mobile phone

The responsibility assignment matrix is made most often with a spreadsheet program. The top row lists the names of people working on the project, and the left column lists the jobs that need to be done in the project. In the boxes below, a code details what the employee's responsibility is toward the job. There is often more than one person assigned to each job.

There is no standard for this code, so anything can be used. For example, “R” can be written under someone’s name to mean he or she is responsible for the project’s work, but “Resp” also can be used, as can “W” for work. Using letters, or abbreviated words, makes it easier to read and skim through a responsibility assignment matrix. The lack of a standardized code means it is often necessary to put a legend underneath the matrix so everyone knows what the codes mean.

In large projects with many people, some workers may be confused about what has to be reviewed or who has to be spoken with before any actions are taken. By creating a responsibility assignment matrix, all workers will know who the support and reviewers are. This makes it easier for workers to contact the right people and for the reviewers to know if he needs further verification. The matrix also establishes a chain of command, so everyone knows who the superiors are in the project.

Along with pinning down who does what, there is a darker side to the responsibility assignment matrix. It makes it easier to assign blame if the project does not work. Whoever is assigned as the leader, or the final verification, has all power and responsibility over the job. If the project fails, then the higher-ups will know exactly who to blame.

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