In the last post, Decision Rights (part 1), I introduced the RACI Chart, explained what it is, and showed an example.  But why would anyone use the RACI model instead of just proceeding with business as usual?

First off, if your organization makes good decisions quickly and without looking back, then please carry on smartly.  But I have found that poorly-defined decision rights are at the root of many dysfunctional team dynamics.

Some advantages of clarifying decision rights:

Clearer boundaries and fewer fights. When stakeholders are unsure of who owns the decision (or multiple individuals all feel they should have a vote), the decision process can devolve into combative arguments, wherein each person struggles to push his/her own ideas and agenda.  The analogy:  kids in a sandbox all grabbing for the same toy.

Clear accountability. A decision with multiple approvers (decision by committee) has diffuse accountability (meaning, really, no accountability).  When a committee makes a bad decision, who is accountable?  On the other hand, when one individual has authority to make a decision, that individual can be coached to improve his/her decision processes or rewarded for good decisions (with an acknowledgment and/or increasing levels of decision authority over time).

Decisions are made with appropriate speed. When we require consensus from all committee members before moving forward, we effectively give every member a veto.  That slows down the decision process, even when there’s no more information to gather that could improve the quality of the decision.

Decision quality improves. Designating a “Responsible” party to tee up decisions, explore options, and make recommendations helps ensure that the best possible solutions are considered.  By having the right people involved (subject matter experts and cross-functional stakeholders, e.g.) in the Consulted role, Approvers benefit from the wisdom of others.

Creating a RACI chart isn’t a panacea.  There is some hard work involved in making it work.  Some keys to success:

  • To preserve trust, respect, and credibility, Approvers must take into account the interests of those in the role of Consulted.  Approvers must make decisions based on “what’s good for us” instead of “what’s good for me.”
  • Leaders must provide feedback and coaching to Approvers on the quality of their decisions.
  • Teams must get good at creating RACI Charts “on the fly.”  It is impossible to predict every decision that a team will face.  A good starting point is getting used to asking, “Whose decision is this?”

What do you think?  Are there any other benefits to clearer decision rights that I’m missing?  How would clearer decision rights help your organization?

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