PMP® Exam Tip: The Responsibility Assignment Matrix (RAM)
A Responsibility Assignment Matrix (RAM), also known as RACI matrix or Linear Responsibility Chart (LRC), describes the participation by various roles in completing tasks or deliverables for a project or business process.
It is especially useful in clarifying roles and responsibilities in cross-functional/departmental projects and processes. RACI is an acronym derived from the four key responsibilities most typically used:
- Those who do the work to achieve the task. There is typically one role with a participation type of Responsible, although others can be delegated to assist in the work required.
- Sometimes also knows as Approver or final Approving authority. This is the one ultimately accountable for the correct and thorough completion of the deliverable or task, and the one to whom Responsible is accountable. In other words, an Accountable must sign off (Approve) on work that a Responsible provides. There must be only one Accountable specified for each task or deliverable.
- Those whose opinions are sought; and with whom there is two-way communication.
- Those who are kept up-to-date on progress, often only on completion of the task or deliverable; and with whom there is just one-way communication.
Very often the role that is Accountable for a task or deliverable may also be Responsible for completing it (indicated on the matrix by the task or deliverable having a role Accountable for it, but no role Responsible for its completion, i.e. it is implied).
A grid that shows the project resources assigned to each work package.
Outside of this exception, it is generally recommended that each role in the project or process for each task receive, at most, just one of the participation types. Where more than one participation type is shown, this generally implies that participation has not yet been fully resolved, which can impede the value of this technique in clarifying the participation of each role on each task.
Furthermore, there is a distinction between a role and individually identified persons: a role is a descriptor of an associated set of tasks, which may be performed by many persons, and one person can perform many roles.
For example, an organisation may have 10 persons who can perform the role of project manager, although traditionally each project only has one project manager at any one time; and a person who is able to perform the role of project manager may also be able to perform the role of business analyst and tester.
On larger projects, RAMs can be developed at various levels. For example, a high-level RAM can define which a project group or unit is responsible for major phases of the project, while lower level RAMs are used within the group to designate roles, responsibilities and levels of authority for specific activities.
A common type of RAM that uses responsible, accountable, consult and inform statuses to define the involvement of stakeholders in project activities.
The matrix format shows all activities associated with one person and all people associated with one activity. This also ensures that there is only one person accountable for any one task to avoid confusion.
The PMBOK® Guide also states that one example of a RAM is the RACI chart, showing the work to be done in the left column as activities. The assigned resources can be shown as individual or groups. The RACI is just one type of RAM; the project manager can select other options such as "lead" and "resource" designation or others as appropriate for the project. The RACI is particularly important when the team consists of internal and external resources to ensure clear divisions of roles and expectations.
It is recommended that the project manager involves team members when developing the responsibility assignment matrix. While the PM can develop an initial, rough draft, it is impossible for him or her to know exactly how tasks should be performed in each area of expertise. Involving the team therefore not only leads to a more precise matrix, but in addition the team members will also feel greater ownership of assignments, leading to greater commitment and participation.
PMP® Exam Sample Questions
Test your understanding of the RAM with this sample question from the PMP® Exam Simulator:
Which type of tool will you use to depict the relationship between work to be done and project team members?
D) Gantt chart
Correct Answer: A) Matrix-based.
Explanation: A responsibility assignment matrix (RAM) is a grid that shows the project resources assigned to each work package.
Reference: PMBOK Guide 5th Edition, page 262
Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) As Defined in The Guide
A work breakdown structure (WBS) in project management and systems engineering, is a tool used to define and group a project's discrete work packages in a way that helps organize and define the total work scope of the project. A work breakdown structure element may be a product, data, a service, or any combination. A WBS also provides the necessary framework for detailed cost estimating and control along with providing guidance for schedule development and control. Additionally the WBS is a dynamic tool and can be revised and updated as needed by the project manager.
One of the most important Work Breakdown Structure design principles is called the 100% Rule. This Rule states that the WBS includes 100% of the work defined by the project scope and captures all deliverables – internal, external, interim – in terms of the work to be completed, including project management. The 100% rule is one of the most important principles guiding the development, decomposition and evaluation of the WBS. The rule applies at all levels within the hierarchy: the sum of the work at the “child” level must equal 100% of the work represented by the “parent” and the WBS should not include any work that falls outside the actual scope of the project, that is, it cannot include more than 100% of the work. At the same time, it cannot contain only 95%. It must contain 100% of the work. It applies to the activity level. The work represented by the activities in each work package must add up to 100% of the work necessary to complete the work package.
A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) - Fifth Edition, states that Create WBS is the process of subdividing project deliverables and project work into smaller, more manageable components. The work breakdown structure (WBS) is a deliverable-oriented hierarchical decomposition of the work to be executed by the project team to accomplish the project objectives and create the required deliverables, with each descending level of the WBS representing an increasingly detailed definition of the project work. The WBS organizes and defines the total scope of the project, and represents the work specified in the current approved project scope statement. The planned work is contained within the lowest level WBS components, which are called work packages. A work package can be scheduled, cost estimated, monitored, and controlled. In the context of the WBS, work refers to work products or deliverables that are the result of effort and not to the effort itself.
Read more about the WBS in the PMBOK® Guide.
How to Use Tornado Diagram for the PMP® Certification Exam
One of the more obscure terms that you need to know for the Project Management Professional (PMP)® Exam is the "Tornado Diagram". Basically, the diagram is a typical display format of the sensitivity analysis. Let's look at this in more detail.
A Tornado diagram, also called tornado plot or tornado chart, is a special type of Bar chart, where the data categories are listed vertically instead of the standard horizontal presentation, and the categories are ordered so that the largest bar appears at the top of the chart, the second largest appears second from the top, and so on. They are so named because the final chart appears to be one half of a tornado. This diagram is useful for sensitivity analysis - comparing the relative importance of variables. For example, if you need to visually compare 100 budgetary items, and identify the largest ten items, it would be nearly impossible to do using a standard bar graph. However, in a tornado chart of the budget items, the top ten bars would represent the top ten largest items.
This is applicable to wide range of project domains – Financial, Constructions, Software, Sales, Services, etc. Tornado chart can be used for analyzing sensitivity in other project constraint (cost, time, quality and risk) objectives also. The longer the bar the greater the sensitivity of the project objective to the factor. The factor that have the greatest impact is located at the top, and the bar ends indicate the low and high value of the factor. It assists the project manager in focusing on the most critical variable of the project, sort and prioritize the variable according to their impact on the project objective, realize how much the value of the project is impacted by the uncertainties of the project, and decide where you need to invest any additional efforts.
You can find the Diagram in the PMBOK® Guide 5th Edition starting in section 22.214.171.124 as part of the sensitivity analysis.
Schedule your PMP® Certification Exam as early as possible
One of the more important steps in preparing for the PMP exam is to schedule your exam date as soon as you meet all the eligibility requirements.
This step will give you a specific date toward which you can work. Now you have a deadline - a big red "X" on your calendar -, and this will motivate you in your studies. If you don't have the date scheduled, you can always find excuses for not studying and delaying things. But having the date in your mind and calendar will drive you to study regularly.
Now that you see your exam approaching, here are a few good study activities:
Read the PMBOK® Guide. Read it twice. Because the PMP exam is based mainly on the PMBOK® Guide contents, it makes sense to know what it says. However, the PMP exam requires far more than just recounting facts. You can't just memorize the PMBOK® Guide and pass the exam. You must understand how each of the 49 PMBOK® Guide processes, along with their inputs, outputs, and tools and techniques, would be applied in real-life project situations. So an excellent way to enhance your studies is to apply the concepts you learn from the PMBOK® Guide to your projects right away.
Next, read the Agile Practice Guide. This publication from the PMI provides tools, situational guidelines, and an understanding of the various agile approaches available to enable better results. Since 50% of the PMP exam will represent agile or hybrid approaches, it is important to be knowledgeable about agile.
Then, read the PMI Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct, and as with the PMBOK, read it at least twice. Think of project scenarios for each topic that will be more meaningful and help you remember the concepts as you study the Code. Learn how each section in the Code is different and why each is necessary for the project management profession.
And lastly, don't forget to discuss project management topics with others to learn the material. We suggest finding a local or online study group and meeting with them as you study for the exam.
Check out this YouTube video for more valuable tips and increase your chance of a successful PMP Exam.
Use PMBOK® Guide Approach in PMP Sample Questions
There is a bit of a disconnect that Project Management Professional (PMP)® Exam takers report as they are preparing for the exam. Because you must be an experienced project manager to take the exam, you bring years of experience in managing projects and using tools & techniques with you. Often, these are based on company internal project management best practices and tactics that you found working for you. However, the PMP® Exam requires that you apply the concepts from A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) to real-life situations as presented in the exam questions. If the methodology that you are experienced in using is not aligned with the PMBOK® Guide, then you may pick the wrong answers in your test.
Furthermore, the projects you manage may not have required you to deal in all the PMBOK® Guide's Knowledge Areas. For instance, risk management was something I did very rarely on my projects and maybe in your career you never had to deal with procurement. So it is likely that you’ll be more comfortable with some project management knowledge areas and processes than others. This can lead to two problems:
First you may feel that because you are an absolute pro in scheduling (after all you have years of experience here) you can slack off in your studies and rely on your own project management experience instead. You tend to minimize studying for the areas you know best. But this can hurt you because the PMBOK® Guide’s approach is the correct approach for the PMP® exam.
The second is the tendency to minimize the importance of project management areas with which you are unfamiliar. Just because I didn't do much risk management doesn't mean that it isn't important. But we are creatures of habit, so it's only normal to also think that the "unimportant" areas on our projects are also "unimportant" on the exam. PMPs are expected to demonstrate a good understanding of all aspects of project management as defined in the PMBOK® Guide. So pay particular attention to the processes with which you are not familiar.
So what's the best approach? I always recommend to my students that they study the PMBOK® Guide at least twice before taking the exam and that they immediately start using the practices learned on their projects. Applying the theory from the PMBOK® Guide on your projects is the best way of learning it and passing the exam.
What to Do If you Fail PMP® Exam Twice
OK, I really hope that you will NEVER have to make use of this week's PMP Exam tip: If you fail your PMP Exam twice, then consider waiting a bit instead of taking it for a third time right away. Here's why:
Once your PMP Exam application is approved, you are given one year and three attempts to pass. In case you fail all of these three attempts, you need to wait one year before filing another application to try again.
So... If we assume a worst-case scenario of you failing the exam twice within ten months, this means that you now have two months and one more attempt left to pass your exam. But think about it: you are already nervous, studying to pass the exam has become a real chore, and you may question your ability to pass the exam. Add to this your personal life, your workload that may come in the way of your studies, and you can see that your third attempt might not go well either. And if you really fail a third time, then you'll have to wait one year to reapply.
So why not give yourself a clean slate?
Instead of going headfirst through this wall and failing for the third time, simply let your PMP Exam application expire, apply again and give yourself another year and 3 fresh attempts. Granted, doing this is more expensive (PMI members pay $275 for a re-examination vs. $405 for a second, completely new application), but it removes the pressure of having to cram for your 3rd attempt in the short time left, as well as the mandatory 1-year wait after the failed 3rd attempt.
Of course, this is a very personal choice. The timing of your first two attempts must be considered as well. If you take suitable measures to pass on your third attempt, or if your two failed attempts happen early on in your eligibility period, then it might be better for you to go and try for a 3rd time right away. But if you're unsure about your readiness or if time is running out, then letting your application expire is a valid choice.
I also recommend the PM Podcast episode “Six Reasons Why You May Have Failed The PMP Exam Three Times”, where I interviewed Kevin Reilly. We discuss the reasons for failure and provide our recommendations as to what you can do about it. Here is the link to the interview recording:
Take PMP® Sample Exams to Help You Prepare for the PMP® Exam
One of the most important activities for your PMP Exam Prep is to take sample PMP Exams (some call them “mock exams”). Be sure that you do this only after reading the PMBOK® Guide at least once. Also, remember that failing sample PMP exam quizzes does not mean you will fail the PMP exam. Online sample exams should be used as a progress indicator in your preparation, as a means for you to learn about question styles and to teach you how to pace yourself in answering 180 questions.
Many students have told me that they practiced answering their sample exams repeatedly until they were satisfied with the results. But that approach is completely wrong! Here is why: when you take the same sample exam, again and again, you will start to remember the correct answers. You will remember that you answered B in your last attempt but that the correct answer is actually C. Memorizing means your result will improve every time you repeat the same sample exam.
But on the PMP Exam, you only have one chance!
So my recommendation is this: Sign up for an online PMP Exam simulator. This simulator will cost you some additional money. Still, the two major benefits are (1) that simulators offer many questions & quizzes that you can take without repetition, and (2) they allow you to test yourself in an environment that closely resembles the actual PMP Exam.
Therefore, go beyond searching for free PMP Exam questions on the internet and use the professional tools that are available to you.
Watch this video for additional study tips and techniques when preparing for the PMP® exam: