How to Eliminate Decisional Gridlock

How to Run a Business

Traffic Congestion

Companies are like cars: In order to get where they want to go, they must be able to travel freely and openly from origin to destination. When there are traffic jams in their way, progress is slow. And sometimes, nonexistent.

Regrettably, one of the most common "traffic jams" companies experience is decisional gridlock, authors Paul Rogers and Marcia W. Blenko assert in an article for the Harvard Business Review.

"At many companies, decisions routinely get stuck inside the organization like loose change. But it's more than loose change that's at stake, of course; it's the performance of the entire organization," Rogers and Blenko write. "Never mind what industry you're in, how big and well known your company may be, or how clever your strategy is. If you can't make the right decisions quickly and effectively, and execute those decisions consistently, your business will lose ground."

If your company suffers from decisional gridlock, it must find ways to eliminate it, according to Rogers and Blenko, who say the most effective tool for doing so is assigning the people in your organization clear roles and responsibilities. "We have used an approach called RAPID … to help hundreds of companies develop clear decision-making guidelines," they explain. "The letters in RAPID stand for the primary roles in any decision-making process, although these roles are not performed exactly in this order: recommend, agree, perform, input, and decide -- the 'D.'"

Those who "recommend" decisions are responsible for making proposals, Rogers and Blenko explain. Those who "agree" are responsible for signing off on proposals before they can move forward. Those who give "input" provide information to support or oppose a decision. The person who "decides" eventually makes the decision. And finally, those who "perform" execute and implement the decision.

"RAPID can be used to help redesign the way an organization works or to target a single bottleneck," Rogers and Blenko conclude.

Either way, the goal is simple: to move organizations toward their goals quickly by making sure everyone knows his or her role in the decision-making process.

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