149 – Decision making: Making good decisions quickly in local government.

Posted by Lancing Farrell                                                                              650 words

RAPID decision image

This is the second post in a series. Have you ever felt that there were too many opinions being aired and not enough decisions being made?  Making good decisions quickly is the hallmark of a high performing organisation. This includes major strategic decisions and operating decisions. It is important to know which decisions are really matter and then ensure that they don’t stall because decision making roles and responsibilities are not clear. This is the first challenge for local government.

Good decision makers think through who should recommend a particular direction, who needs to agree, who should have input, who has ultimate responsibility for making the decision, and who is accountable for follow through, and then they set a process up to make decisions.

Good decision processes then become routine and are known to everyone, which provides better coordination and faster response times. Local government needs reliable and consistent ways to make the many decisions that are required quickly to provide better customer service and use resources efficiently. Decision making processes need clarity to build-in accountability.

The RAPID process developed by Rogers and Blenko is one method that can routinise decision making by breaking decision making into a series of steps with clear roles for the people involved in making a decision:

Recommend – the recommender gathers input, provides data and analysis, and makes a proposal with alternatives. They need to consult with the people providing input to hear their views, incorporate them into the proposal, and generate buy-in. The recommender needs analytical skills, common sense and organisational smarts to make recommendations that are reasonable, practical and likely to be effective.

Agree – these are the people have the power of veto over recommendations. If they exercise their veto, it triggers a debate with the recommenders that should lead to a modified proposal. If this can’t happen or will take too long, the issue escalates to the decider.

Input – these are the people who are consulted on the decision. They are typically involved in implementation; therefore recommenders have a strong interest in listening to them and taking their advice seriously. Without their buy-in the decision is more likely to fail to be implemented.

Decide – this is the formal, authorised decision maker accountable for the decision. They have the authority to resolve any impasse in the process to bring the decision to closure, and to commit the organisation to action.

Perform – this is the person or group of people responsible for implementing the decision. It may be the same person who recommended the decision. This is a crucial role, as a good decision implemented quickly may beat a brilliant decision implemented slowly.

If the RAPID process is in place and it slows down, Rogers and Blenko attribute it to be one of three problems:

  1. A lack of clarity about who is to make the decision. If there is more than one person thinking they are able to make the decision, or there is no one, the process will stop.
  2. Too many people have veto power, which makes it too hard for the recommenders to finalise their proposal. This could mean that the decision has not been pushed far enough down the organisation.
  3. If there are a lot of people providing input, some of them aren’t making a meaningful contribution.

At this point it is worth remembering that decision making is integrally linked to the production of value for customers. Organisations need to ensure that decision roles align with the most important sources of value. For example, the recommenders should be the people who are most capable of understanding an issue and knowing the possible ways forward to resolve or improve it. They know how to produce value and the impact any decision might have on value.

The people with a right to veto must be those who are materially affected by the decision because it can reduce the value they produce. Input should be sought from those can provide meaningful input and who will be involved in implementing the decision.

The decision maker has to be the person who is really accountable for the impact of the decision, not just the obvious person in the hierarchy. People involved in the ‘perform’ role should be those who have control over the resources needed to act to implement the decision.

Rogers, Paul and Blenko, Marcia 2006. ‘Who has the D? How decision roles enhance organisational performance’, Harvard Business Review, January.