How to get my team to decide once and for all: roles and responsibilities in decision-making

To make an agile decision, it is essential that decision makers are clear about the decisions they must make, know what their role is in the decision-making process and have the right process for making them. How to identify the roles of each player in the decision-making process and put them together in a team? 

If one randomly selects a decision and asks around to different people in the organization, who is responsible for making that decision, who should provide information, who can give their recommendation and who can veto it if necessary, it is very likely we will be greatly surprised. 

There are different roles that a person can occupy regarding a decision, however, it is usual that these roles are not clearly identified and there are diffuse areas where it is not entirely clear what is expected of a person in a given situation.

It is usual that these roles are not clearly identified and there are diffuse areas where it is not entirely clear what is expected of a person in a given situation. 

Organizations may allow for some flexibility or ambiguity regarding the assignment of roles for a decision, but this ambiguity must be eliminated if the lack of definition is creating inefficiencies in the decision process. In general, there is a better definition of roles for technical decisions, but as contradictory as it may seem, there are more areas of ambiguity when it comes to strategic business decisions.

Having clear decision roles, at least for critical decisions, is essential to unblock situations led by politics or by processes of buying and selling ideas at the highest levels of the organization. 

It is always advisable that the definition of decision-making roles of key people prevail over the organizational chart, ensuring the individuals and knowledge necessary to make the decisions are available, regardless of their position or hierarchical level in the organization. Many decisions require that people at a lower hierarchical level, or from other areas of the organization, be involved from an early stage to guarantee the success of the implementation. Moreover, if it were possible to involve those responsible for the execution of the decision from the very beginning of the process, the chances of higher levels of commitment at the time of implementation could be significantly increased. 

To address a process that tries to distinguish these decision-making roles, various models can be used, such as the RACI, the RACIX or the RAPID, which define their names by the initials of the roles to be distributed. To do so, it is important to differentiate at least the following fundamental roles: 

• Who decides: this person is ultimately responsible for the decision. Provides the resources and releases funds. 

• Who recommends: is responsible for providing the analysis to make a decision. Gathers information and makes proposals to whom should make the decision. 

• Who approves: has veto power over the recommendation, being able to totally reject it and seek the emergence of a new modified recommendation. 

• Who provides information: provides information and knowledge related to their area, or point of view, but should not give general recommendations or make the decision. 

• Who executes: responsible for implementing a decision. It is advisable they form part of the previous stages.

• Who analyzes: provides support in the different stages of analysis and information search. 

• Who facilitates meetings: provides objective vision and guarantees compliance with the different stages of the process. 

With regard to the knowledge needed to make a decision, those who provide information and those who recommend occupy a key position in the process. Those who provide information are expected to provide relevant data put in context (information) to support the decision analysis. Those who recommend must finally transform this information into knowledge to support and enable decision-making. Both roles must be effectively coordinated to increase the final efficiency of the decision process.

In general, when complex decisions are faced, specific work teams are formed to carry out the decision-making processes. Before starting these processes, work teams that bring together different roles must be defined, so they can intervene in different stages of the decision-making process. Thus, for example, it is advisable to distinguish between the Decision-Making Team (those who decide and those who approve), the Analysis Team (those who analyze, recommend, execute, and facilitate), and finally the Experts Team, made up of those who provide information. 

Recommendations for forming a decision-making team 

When applying collaborative decision-making methodologies, it is essential to define and involve the right team from the very beginning of the process. In the assembly of these teams, following some guidelines usually allows obtaining greater results and high levels of commitment in implementation: 

• Different hierarchies: involving participants from different hierarchical levels. Higher-ranking participants tend to provide a broader view, while more operational employees have higher-quality information. 

• Multifunctional teams: involving the different areas affected by the decision usually brings diversity of points of view and greater richness to the analysis. On some occasions, it is advisable to incorporate participants from outside the organization into the team for this purpose. 

• Avoid the comfort zone: to force ourselves to push the limits and generate creative solutions, it is important to also involve actors who are supposed to be ‘against’ the analyzed alternatives, or those who could be harmed by their implementation. 

• Add sponsors: when decisions could face resistance to change or political obstacles of any kind, it is important to add to the team people who may offer such resistance. 

• Trusted experts: the roles responsible for providing information should be represented by those who do not have conflicting goals or commitments that could bias the assessment of the alternatives. 

• Balance of personalities: it is important for there to be diverse profiles within the team, adding, for example, actors with harder or numerical profiles, and others with softer profiles, oriented towards qualitative aspects of the organization. 

• Clear definition of roles: in order to obtain team behavior, and not just group behavior, roles must be clearly defined before starting the process. Thus, for example, it is advisable to distinguish between those who will make the decisions (Decision-Making Team), those who will analyze the information (Analysis Team) and those who will provide unbiased information (Experts Team). 

• Unbiased facilitator: Lastly, the management of the team by an external facilitator provides objectivity and rigor to the process applied and the results obtained. 

Identifying which are the decisions that add the most value to the organization is undoubtedly the first step towards the efficient management of decisions in teams. Designing decision-making teams, clearly distinguishing roles and responsibilities that each member must attend to, will be vital to generating effective agreements and thus, improve the results pursued by the decision. As in a game, in decision-making processes, each player must attend to the responsibilities they have within the game; the important thing is to know very clearly what game it is they are playing.

Gastón Francese
Partner at Tandem.

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