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Building a Proper DACI for the Team

Get through complex business and technical problems with ease. Improve a team's effectiveness and velocity on projects. Assign specific roles.

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About the play

Ever wonder who the players are during an Integration? At times it can seem like tribal knowledge. Other times it is a makeshift org chart with cursory effort. The merit behind building a proper DACI will go a long way to emboldening a strong culture of accountability.

A Drive, Approver, Contributor and Informed (DACI) matrix is not a new concept. Project managers have used it for a decade or more to get through complex business and technical problems. However, applying it to the Agile approach for Integrations is new. A DACI can prove to be strongest when:

  1. New joiners to a Workstream need to pick up who the key players are
  2. Complex decisions need to be made intra-Workstream needing the right team members to come to consensus
  3. Your Steering Committee is faced with a strategic risk or issue demanding cross-Workstream input.

During the normal course of Integration, team members will fixate undoubtedly to other teammates whom they work with closely. But that is not the extent of your responsibility in the IMO.

You need to know and understand all the moving parts of the Integration. And a DACI helps you cement the appropriate pathways to the decision makers who keep progress moving forward.

Additionally, the DACI drives accountability at all levels. I know it’s an intangible argument but when teammates see their names in the DACI matrix then an inherent ownership sets in from the expectation of their role and responsibility.

Preparation

Having a solid DACI template ready is great first step. Below is a sample.

DACI template
Sample DACI Matrix Template

Also, make sure to acquire a member list even though it may not be complete. Remember, you will never really be complete since participants during an Integration will fluctuate.

The member list is a step forward to knowing already participants who can be assigned to the DACI. Now, there will be a natural fit of teammates to the DACI roles.

So I am not saying that you need to overthink the assignments. Rather, having the member list ahead of time will skip the cycles of ambiguity.

People

Head of Integrations, Workstream Leads

Difficulty

Easy

Materials

Team member list, DACI matrix template

Time

Planning: 20 minutes | Design: 60 minutes

Running the Play:

01

Draft the DACI Legend

There is a reason to start with the DACI legend rather than filling in the matrix.

By defining and cementing what you want each role to do then you set the guidewires by which team mate personality, ability and accountability fit into the role. If you did it the other way around then there will be too much ambiguity and flexibility that you will likely spend cycles redefining the roles to fit the people you want in the role itself.

This is a major flaw and should be avoided at all costs because this is fraught with conjecture and indefensible. And believe me when I tell you that you will get second guessed on your decision to put names into the roles.

But having the definition predefined then you can stand fast with the IMO’s definition, and let the proper team mates fall into the roles according to the appropriate criteria to driving success of this Integration.

A good DACI legend will:

  • Have well-defined guidelines on expectation yet be flexible to allow variability in teammate selection
  • Set the IMO’s expectation on what a successful assignment will entail
  • Not be too stringent that it calls for only one type of teammate
  • Carries with it the persona characteristics that are a good fit
  • Removes any political affiliation or conjecture
  • Establishes which roles have actionable responsibility
  • Provides for a strong sense of collaboration in key roles
  • Prevents any ambiguity where one assignment is sufficient versus where multiple assignments are allowed
  • Not be designed to consider *every* possible combination of responsibility; this is not a job description
DACI legend example
Sample DACI Legend

Feel free to look at other resources to help you define the proper DACI legend for your organization. Here are a few examples I’ve found useful:

02

Draft the DACI Matrix

Now that your DACI legend is complete, we can get to the assignment of teammates to the roles.

The sample in Table 1 can be expanded to include all the departments in your Integration. Or you can modify the sample to be just Workstreams. In either case, it is recommended that you bring together your Workstream Leads into workshop to complete the effort of assigning teammates to the roles.

This design exercise can take about 60 minutes depending on how large of an Integration team you have.

At the completion of the design, make sure to get sign-off on this draft with your Workstream Leads. This is important when you bring up the matrix to your Steering Committee. The SteerCo too should get a readout on the assignments before communicating it to the general audience.

Here are a few hints to running a good workshop when assigning the teammates to the DACI roles:

  • Create a transparent and honest environment for the conversation since the resulting draft will be everyone’s “goto team” toward a successful Integration
  • Everyone needs to be open to feedback and, if needed, apply Chatham House Rules for confidentiality
  • Flush out where there are political motives, and stop it
  • Look for teammates whose career progression could benefit by the assignment *and* have the desire to get involved
  • Stay away from long, drawn out justifications of why a teammate needs to be in a role (we can all tell when someone is over inflating a nominee)
  • On the flipside, do not allow a filibuster
  • Last but not least, take mental note of the characteristics of each nominee into the role since this will be key to determining whether the fit was right.
03

Get Approval from the Steering Committee

Shortly after the workshop should be the chance to present to the SteerCo the draft of the DACI matrix assignments.

Typically, the SteerCo will not make major changes to the assignments once they know you’ve had sign-off from the Workstream Leads. And as key stakeholders, they have a vested interest in having the right team on the Integration to which they often rely on the opinions of their Leads.

The approval can be a simple verbal approval and documented in the meeting notes after the SteerCo.

04

How to Apply the DACI to Everyday Conversations

It will not take too long after the SteerCo’s approval that teammates will begin asking for the DACI matrix. Feel free to make it publicly available in your IMO Document Repository. Often this is the easiest way to get the word out without a heavy communication effort on your part.

What you will find is that the DACI matrix will find its way naturally into most conversations during the early weeks of the Integration. And take note of which teams go through the five stages of group development.

Some will start earlier than others. You may consider stepping in to create formal ties between the teams who are behind.

A couple of ideas to try are:

  1. build in time during the first few meetings to do teammate introductions, or
  2. find a way to get teammates to collaborate on a small task where knowledge sharing is key.

Remember that most acquiree’s still feel nervous from the transaction. Helping them feel welcome through introductions will go a long way. The DACI matrix is a good start of the acquiree team to know who the players are on the acquirer side.

Closing out on this play, the DACI matrix will become perishable over time. Yet when done well in the beginning, it will create a level of structure and preparedness that is worthwhile for the longevity of the Integration program.

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