Who’s in charge? The simplest and most important way to avoid chaos.


I broke one of my cardinal rules last week, and my fellow team members paid the price for me.  I apologised, but the irony is that the rule is one I bang on about all the time.

When you plan something well, there’s a list of ‘next actions’ that need to be done, and by the end of a smoothly run meeting we can all answer the  ‘3W’ questions: Who is going to do What, by When?’

We did all that. Tick. We scurried out of the planning meeting with our busy and co-ordinated lists. Tick.

So why did the wheels nearly come off?

Because although we had identified that lots of people had responsibility for different areas, we had failed to identify who held it all together.

We had failed to distinguish those who had A Responsibility, from the person who had The Responsibility.

My fault.  And even though, as the leader, I may not have had The Responsibility for the event, I do have The Responsibility for making sure that the person who does, knows it – and that everyone else knows it too.

A Responsibility.  The Responsibility  Don’t confuse them.

4 comments on “Who’s in charge? The simplest and most important way to avoid chaos.”

  1. It sounds like you could do with a basic tool in the project manager’s vocabulary: RACI. These are the four different levels of responsibility in a piece of work. The order is actually more like ARCI:

    – Accountable = overall responsibility
    – Responsible = responsible for delivering a part of the whole
    – Consulted = someone who is consulted before a decision, but isn’t responsible for the outcome
    – Informed = not responsible, or consulted, but just informed about the plans.

    So, in a church setting, if the project is about revamping the website, it might look like this: the Vicar is Accountable (’cos ultimately they are accountable for almost everything); a separate member of staff or volunteer is Responsible for consulting, planning and delivering the changes; the staff, ministry team leads and PCC should be consulted about aim and content before the changes are planned; and everyone else is Informed that the changes are going to happen.

    I hope that helps.

    1. Thank you, Jonathan, that is also really helpful. In terms of the management of complex projects, though, I as a vicar would still want to identify someone else as the responsible individual because I don’t want too many things landing on my desk. In many ways my most important role is the appointment of the right staff and volunteers.

      1. I quite agree that you want to have the responsibility delegated as far as possible (as long as that includes the ability to make the decisions, not just implement the leader’s decisions). And as far as possible the accountability should be with the responsible party too. But in practice, particularly when things go wrong in a public way, it’s often the most senior leader who needs to stand up and be accountable to media/bishops/shareholders.

      2. Sure. But my failure on this occasion was on an operational level, rather than in a generic way that I am ultimately responsible for everything!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s