Understanding the MOCHA method in project management

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If you’ve tried RACI models for clarifying responsibilities in your marketing project management efforts, did you get the results you were hoping for? 

For some agencies, RACI delivers incredible clarity. But others find it a little underwhelming, vague, or even confusing.

Divvying up project roles into four categories (responsible, accountable, consulted, and informed) is one way to bring clarity to a project. But those categories don’t always provide the level of transparency needed, and there’s a lot of white space between them. 

McKinsey & Co identified several weaknesses in the RACI model, the biggest being that there’s no clear decider:

“If told that you were responsible or accountable for a decision, would you get to make that decision? What if you were to be consulted? With RACI, too many stakeholders end up with a vote or veto.”

Enter the MOCHA method. This recently developed spiritual successor to the RACI approach is gaining tons of traction (for good reason).

Here’s what agencies need to know about this improved project management method.

What is the MOCHA method?

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MOCHA is a project management framework that defines the roles and responsibilities within a project. It breaks down the people involved into five categories, which spell out the MOCHA acronym: manager, owner, consultant, helper, and approver. 

MOCHA helps team members understand what is and isn’t their responsibility. In creative projects, which tend to have fuzzy edges and lots of overlap, MOCHA helps to categorize team members and reduce this overlap. MOCHA can also lessen the interpersonal tensions that occur when people aren’t clear about who owns a decision or task.

It’s not one of the styles of project management, nor is it a project management methodology. Instead it’s a framework that can be used alongside just about any project management style to define roles and responsibilities in clearer language.

The core components of MOCHA 

The MOCHA tool breaks down contributions and responsibilities into five clear roles or categories. Each of these categories relates to the project in unique ways. By understanding these relationships to project work (and to others on the team), project team members can operate more effectively together.


The manager is the person that oversees the project, but isn’t typically the one to do the work of the project. The manager relates most closely to the owner (see below). 

Sometimes, the manager is the owner’s direct supervisor, lead, or actual manager. In more developed project management settings, the project manager usually fills this role.

Primary responsibilities of the manager are delegating, supporting the owner, providing feedback, and stepping in or intervening if something isn’t going according to the project plan.

The manager in the MOCHA framework most closely corresponds to the accountable party in RACI.

If your agency employs dedicated project managers, then that’s who usually wears the Manager name tag (in MOCHA terms, at least). The manager could also be your creative director or a senior account lead — whoever’s ultimately in charge.


The owner is the primary role that moves the project forward. It’s the person or role or department that takes ownership of the project. The owner usually does some of the work of the project and ensures that anyone else doing the work gets their part done.

Projects should have only one owner, though it’s possible for that singular owner to be a department rather than an individual. 

MOCHA’s owner role most closely corresponds to the responsible party in the RACI framework.

Let’s consider this in an agency setting: An account executive owns everything about their accounts, even though they don’t do all the work themselves. The account exec is serving as the de facto project manager, shepherding the project through its various tasks and making sure all contributors have what they need to proceed.

If your agency is large enough that you employ full-time project managers, then ownership might move to them. Or it could be that the account exec retains ownership of the outputs while the PM serves the manager role, overseeing direction, planning, and scheduling. 


Someone who is consulted is not responsible for doing the work — this type of person offers insight, input, knowledge, or perspective. A consulted party might point others toward answers or referrals who can help with the work.

The consulted role in the MOCHA model is essentially the same as the consulted role in RACI.

Here’s an example that shows up at some creative agencies. Say you’re a relatively young digital agency that’s doing great work and yet still trying to get established as an authority. 

Then you bring in a veteran marketer as a consultant. This person might have a vague-sounding “senior” or VP title, enough to give you plenty of flexibility in terms of job responsibilities. 

This kind of hire serves two purposes. First, their experience gets transferred to your agency, and second, you can consult with them on just about anything. As a result, this kind of hire would very frequently fill the Consulted slot on your MOCHA exercises.

Help (or Helper)

A helper is someone who does parts of the work. Helpers do not own the project, but they help the owner achieve the project goals and objectives. 

In complex or lengthy projects, a helper may be the owner of a specific process, business unit, or area of work. When this happens, the term “cascading MOCHA” is sometimes used.

Here’s one example from the agency world. Imagine you’re taking on a large-scale multichannel marketing campaign. The visuals for every piece of advertising need to follow the same design principles and brand guidelines, and numerous designers and specialists will be contributing. 

In this scenario, a design lead or senior designer assists on the broader project, functioning as a helper (where the owner is a project manager, account manager, or even the creative director). But this person could also be the owner of the design work area, overseeing all graphic designers, motion graphics specialists, videographers, and so on.

The helper role doesn’t have a direct equivalent in the RACI framework.


The last role, approver, is another that has no direct parallel in the RACI model. MOCHA’s approver is a person who signs off on key decisions or on the quality and completeness of the final product. Sometimes, the approver is also the manager or owner. Other times, the approver might be a senior stakeholder (or even a group of stakeholders).

In agency contexts, the approver might be a creative director or account lead, or it may be an authority at your client’s business.

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The benefits of using the MOCHA method

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Successful project managers know that a big part of the battle is getting everyone on the same page — and keeping them there. 

Here are a few specific ways the MOCHA method can help you do this at your agency. 

Greater clarity in roles and responsibilities

The most immediate benefit of using the MOCHA method is an increased level of clarity for every member of the team. Roles are more clearly defined than before, which helps both on a personal and a team level.

Let’s say you’re an account manager at a creative agency, and you’re getting ready to launch a major project for your biggest client. If the team doesn’t stop to determine MOCHA roles, it could be tempting for you to take on elements of all five roles! 

It’s possible to end up in a situation where you’re: 

  • Divvying up the work (manager)

  • Owning the final product (owner)

  • Offering insights and opinions to other specialists (consulted)

  • Helping out when people get behind by doing parts of their work for them (helper)

  • Making the final decision on quality and completeness (approver)

That’s going to be a deeply overwhelming experience for you — and incredibly frustrating for everyone else on the team.

In contrast, by taking the time to figure out who’s in which roles, you’ll better spread the administrative load, and you’ll end up with happier, more harmonious teams. An account manager does wear many hats, of course. But in this framework, the account manager should probably be the manager — and not much else.

Better team collaboration and communication

One downside to having unclear roles is that people aren’t sure what they can and can’t (or should and shouldn’t) say and do. 

Anyone that’s ever been on a project team has had questions like these run through their minds: 

  • Am I the one who gets to make the final decision? 

  • If not, who does?

  • Am I expected to give input?

  • Will the team be open to my input?

  • Should I fight for what I know is the best way, or is that someone else’s call?

When your team members are busy asking themselves questions like these, they aren’t proactively doing their best work or offering their best ideas.

By defining roles and responsibilities with greater precision and clarity, you’ll empower your team to communicate better and more openly. The end result? Stronger, more natural collaboration with less confusion and uncertainty.

Higher project consistency and success rates

When people spend less time jockeying for position or arguing about who’s responsible for what, they spend more time focusing on the right priorities. With everyone staying in the right lanes and cooperating openly, you’ll achieve greater consistency from project to project. 

Around 66% of organizations report that half or more of their projects are behind schedule, over budget, or both, so any change to improve those numbers is a smart one.

Ultimately, your project success rate is likely to rise as you see compounding positive effects over time.

More efficient issue resolution

When roles and responsibilities aren’t clear, who do people run to when something isn’t working or when there’s conflict in the workplace?

Sometimes, it’s the project manager. Most of the time, it’s the person (with a degree of authority) who they think will be most receptive to their side or perspective.

And many of those times, it’s not the person who can most efficiently resolve the issue.

MOCHA solves this, at least in theory, because the method clearly defines who is responsible for what kinds of issues in a project. 

We say “in theory” because you’ll still need to change habits. But over time, you can teach your team to go to the person indicated by MOCHA rather than their default.

How does MOCHA compare to other project management methods

MOCHA is not a project management methodology (like lean, agile, waterfall, scrum, and so forth), but it can actually complement any of those approaches. The methodology handles the sequence of events, while the MOCHA method defines how various roles interact while working through that sequence of events.

The other framework or method worth discussing is RACI. Three of the roles in RACI are represented in MOCHA as we discussed earlier. The final role, informed, doesn’t have a direct equivalent in MOCHA. 

One weakness of RACI is that the line between responsible and accountable can be really hard to define. Another is that senior stakeholders not involved in the day-to-day tend to get lumped into the informed category, which doesn’t quite seem to capture the weight of their influence. 

MOCHA goes a bit deeper, which many organizations find helpful. MOCHA splits out RACI’s “R” (responsible) into a mix of owner and helper, and MOCHA’s “M” (manager) offers a clearer picture than RACI’s “A” (accountable). MOCHA also does away with informed and replaces it with approver — a more accurate term for the important role senior stakeholders have.

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Transitioning your agency from RACI to MOCHA is a smart move. And if you’re not using any framework to define roles and responsibilities, the move to MOCHA could be a true game-changer.

But here’s the thing: You can gain all the clarity in the world on roles and responsibilities. Yet, if you don’t have clarity on the projects themselves, you won’t gain all the advantages MOCHA stands to deliver.

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As a Teamwork.com user, you’ll gain access to powerful templates to save time and improve visibility into every piece of work. It’s a better way to plan, organize, and schedule project work — and it’s designed with agencies in mind.

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