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Decisions! Decisions!

Paul Rogers, co-author and Managing Partner for the UK office of Bain & Co, the consultants, talks about the secret sauce of business decisions in an email interview with Saumya Bhattacharya.

Saumya Bhattacharya | Print Edition: Jan 23, 2011

There are five steps to breakthrough performance in an organisation, according to the authors of Decide & Deliver. Paul Rogers, co-author and Managing Partner for the UK office of Bain & Co, the consultants, talks about the secret sauce of business decisions in an email interview with Saumya Bhattacharya. Edited excerpts:

What is the secret sauce of taking the right decisions?
First, it is important to make decisions a priority. This may sound obvious, but our experience is that not enough companies put decisions at the centre of the debate when it comes to the organisation. The second thing is to identify which decisions really make the difference - this is typically a mix of big one-off "strategic" decisions, and some of the more operational, everyday, decisions. These operational decisions individually have small impact but cumulate to have a big impact. Then, success requires building what we call an integrated organisational system - clear roles, structures, and measures, as well as the vital "people" element. So, the "secret sauce" consists of several steps or "ingredients".

What are the biggest challenges to taking the five steps you mention?

 

Decide and Deliver
Authors: Marcia W. Blenko, Michael C.
Mankins & Paul Rogers
Publishers: Harvard Business Review Press
Pages: 172
Price: Rs 995
The first challenge may sound obvious but it is critical: making decision effectiveness a priority. Not enough organisations spend enough time focusing on how to improve decision effectiveness. Also, even as the process gets under way, there sometimes can be challenges. The third is that sometimes, companies see this as "just another initiative" which lasts for a while and then peters out. Beyond these hurdles, the main challenges relate to processes and people.

You write that few companies look systematically at what gets in the way of good decision-making and execution. Why is this so?
This is a great question. Too many companies still regard the organisation chart as the primary descriptor of how an organisation is supposed to work. The organisation chart was great for doing this in its heyday during the industrial age. But the world has moved on and, in particular, the complexity of what is needed to suceed in today's business world has increased exponentially. The organisation chart simply cannot cope with all this complexity and the problem is that until now, there has not been an adequate alternative approach. Our hope is that a focus on decisions provides this alternative.

How does one prioritise?
The key is to identify the decisions that really matter. We use a tool we call "decision architecture" to help identify the decisions that are most critical.

How crucial is the RAPID method to effective decision-making?
Recommend, agree, perform, input and decide or RAPID is a remarkably powerful tool - intellectually simple but extremely practical. RAPID was designed for decisions and is very intuitive. It helps achieve the real objective of behaviour change and is not just about mapping a bunch of decisions. RAPID helps provide clarity about who is accountable and for what role in a particular decision. It has been in active use at Bain since at least the mid-1980s.

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