Scarlet Spark Team
The DACI Method: 101 -- A simple tool for role clarity, decision-making, and collaboration
Updated: Mar 7
What’s one of the biggest obstacles to effective collaboration in the workplace? Quite simply: not knowing who is doing what. The bad news is that role and decision-making confusion are major drivers of miscommunication, misalignment, frustration, and conflict at work. The good news? There is a simple role clarification process that will make everyone’s life easier while accelerating your impact. It’s called the DACI framework.
In this guide, we’ll break down how DACI works and how to make it work for you. In the next guide, we will dig deeper into advanced DACI practices.
What DACI is:
DACI is a helpful role clarity, decision-making, and collaboration tool that stands for:
What DACI means:
DRIVER: The Driver is the person responsible for a specific activity or result. Picture this person as the one in the driver’s seat of a car. Even when work is highly collaborative, it helps to designate a driver who takes responsibility for tracking and ensuring completion. Without a driver, work tends to suffer from a ‘dilution of responsibility,’ resulting in slow or no progress, even among engaged and responsible people.
APPROVER: The Approver is the final decision-maker on the activity. Using the driving metaphor, this is the person must agree to the final destination and the route you take to get there. In many cases, the Driver and Approver are the same person, but sometimes they’re not. Many people prefer to avoid making their decision-making power explicit, but this avoidance often results in confusion, delays, and disappointments. It’s generally in everyone’s best interest to spell it out.
CONSULTANT: The Consultant provides input and feedback to the Driver. These are the co-pilots in the car. Their job is not to take over the steering wheel but to help the Driver navigate the ride. Making the Consultant role explicit helps everyone involved plan their time well, and it serves as an ‘inclusion check’ – helping you spot gaps in the perspectives you are gathering. Optional: Some teams also find it helpful to spell out Contributors: people who deliver on some of the work but do not drive the entire project.
INFORMED: The Informed individuals have a passive but still important part. Imagine them sitting in the backseat of the car. They’re not driving or navigating, but they’d really like to know where you’re taking them and why (otherwise they become backseat drivers). Articulating the people on your Informed list reminds you who to keep updated and helps them anticipate your communications.
How to collaborate effectively using DACI:
There’s no one right way to apply DACI. That said, here are good points for this role clarity exercise:
Start of project: Set your DACI before you begin a project, and share it with all your ACIs, so everyone is aligned and can set aside time to collaborate.
Pro-tip: put your DACI in writing.
Role descriptions: You can also use DACI to clarify decision-making authority and responsibilities within someone’s role description.
Company or team directory: To make it easy for everyone at your company (or on your team) to know who to go to for what and how decisions are made, publish the DACIs of your most important and/or recurring responsibilities.
Pro-tip #1: List job titles rather than people’s names so you don’t have to update the directory every time the person in a particular role changes.
Pro-tip #2: Define an ongoing clarification process when DACI is unclear. For example: monthly DACI check, email to submit questions, doc to leave comments.
When in doubt: Use the elegant power of DACI whenever there is role, goal, or process confusion. For example: “Just to make sure we’re all aligned, what’s the DACI for this project?” or “Can we pause to make sure we’re all clear on who the Approver will be on this?”
How to get started:
Turning DACI clarity into a habit is one of the simplest and most powerful keys to successful teamwork.
To start building your DACI habit:
Introduce the framework to your team or, if they already know it, suggest putting it into practice. (Similar tools like RACI or MOCHA are also great to use if your team finds them more helpful.) Ask them what opportunities they see to use DACI together.
The next time you notice role confusion, use DACI to do a quick role clarity exercise.
For any project you begin, document the DACI and share it with your collaborators.
Stay tuned for our next guide on taking your DACI skills to the next level!