#ReadingNotes: ‘Who has the D?’ by Rogers and Blenko in HBR 2006

Claim: clear decision roles enhance organisational performance using RAPID (who needs to: Recommend; Agree; Perform (afterwards); Input; Decide) Especially: only one Decider, limit who Agrees and Inputs.

All good, but there will always be some ambiguity in any human construct.  So, consider having clear roles for the most important decisions. Plus, there is more to consider, including power, biases, organisational culture and operating context.

This post is part of the #ReadingNotes series, see here for more (including format and use of bullet points).

Rogers, Paul, and Marcia Blenko. “Who has the D.” Harvard Business Review 84.1 (2006): 52-61. [Link as at 3/02/21.]


  • Decisions routinely stall because of ambiguity over who’s accountable for which decisions.
  • Recommendation: assign clear roles for the decisions that most affect your firm’s performance.
  • Entire decision-making process can stall, usually at one of four bottlenecks (global vs local; centre vs business unit (usually parent companies and subsidiaries); function vs function; inside vs outside partners).
  • Most important step in clearing the bottlenecks: assigning clear roles and responsibilities,
  • Think RAPID:
    • R – Who should recommend a course of action on a key decision?
      • Make the proposal (gather the input, analyse, ensure timely).
      • Consult the input providers.
    • A – Who must agree to a recommendation before it can move forward?
      • Negotiate with R to address their concerns.
      • Escalate unresolved issues if A and R cannot reconcile.
      • If needed, use a veto power.
    • P – Who will perform the actions needed to implement the decision?
      • Execute the decision that is made.
    • I – Whose input is needed to determine the proposal’s feasibility?
      • Provide relevant facts.
      • Needs a culture where people with relevant info are allowed to share it.
    • D – Who decides? Who brings the decision to a closure and commits the organisation to implement it?
      • Serve as single point of accountability
      • Bring the decisions to closure by resolving any impasses.
      • Commit the organisation to implementing.
  • Decision-role pitfalls:
    • Ensure only one person has the D.
    • Watch for a proliferation of As.
    • Avoid assigning too many Is.
  • The decision-driven organisation. High-performing organisations have some defining characteristics in order to make good decisions quickly:
    • Some decisions matter more than others.
      • The ones that matter most are crucial to building value in the business.
      • Includes: strategic (which can be one-way, and never return) and operations (good execution).
    • Action is the goal.
      • Good decisions end with good execution.
      • The goal shouldn’t be consensus but sufficient buy-in.
    • Ambiguity is the enemy.
      • Without clarity there is gridlock and delay.
      • Clarity doesn’t mean concentrating power, it means being clear who has the various roles.
    • Speed and adaptability are crucial.
      • Good decisions quickly gives an organisation a higher metabolism.
      • Need a culture where people can come together quickly and efficiently to make the most important  decisions.
    • Decision roles trump the organisational chart.
      • No structure will be perfect for every decisions.
      • Key: involve right people, at the right level, in the right part of the organisation at the right time.
    • Well-aligned organisation reinforces roles.
      • Clear roles are critical but insufficient. Needs to be reinforced by incentives, information flows, rituals, praise etc.
    • Practicing beats preaching.
      • Involve people in designing the roles they will have to take. The process of thinking about new decision behaviours motivates people to adopt them.
  • A Decision Diagnostic. Consider the last 3 meaningful decisions:
    1. Were the decisions right?
    2. Were they made with appropriate speed?
    3. Were they executed well?
    4. Were the right people involved, in the right way?
    5. Was it clear for each decision
      • Who would recommend a solution?
      • Who would provide input?
      • Who had the final say?
      • Who would be responsible for following through?
    6. Were the decision roles, process, and time frame respected?
    7. Were the decisions based on appropriate facts?
    8. To the extent that there were divergent facts or opinions, was it clear who had the final responsibility for committing the organisation (the ‘D’)?
    9. Were the decision makers at the appropriate level in the company?
    10. Did the organization’s measures and incentives encourage the people involved to make the right decisions?


  • Need clarity on who has the decision, and roles of others.


  • The different roles in RAPID are useful.


Ambiguity is inevitable and can be useful

  • For me, the claim ‘Ambiguity is the enemy’ goes too far.
  • Every human organisation will have ambiguity, for good or bad. Trying to squash it all out will mean putting lots of time and effort in for little upside. As the other principle in the piece has it, some decisions are mort important than others.
  • Ambiguity can be useful when needing to experiment or be flexible.
  • The problem is when the boundaries of the ambiguity are unclear.

There’s more to decision-making than clarity of roles.

  • The article doesn’t claim completeness explicitly, but it does imply that if you get the roles right then the rest will follow.
  • Yes, that’s important but there’s more to good decision-making in organisations, including:
    • Organisational culture. That is only gestured at in the article (under ‘well-aligned organisations’). Do people stick to agreements? Is the organisation open to dis-comforting information , from inside or from outside?
    • Individual cognitive biases. Especially where there is a lack of diversity in the organisation, just because people have clear roles doesn’t mean you will avoid groupthink.
    • Power and ‘court politics’. Do people just want to fit in? Are there people who will agree to stay on the right side of the Decider? Or, will not agree just to block the Decider?
    • Operating context. The range of options that an organisation can imagine and then choose between will be driven by, amongst other things, the operating context. Is the dominant economic paradigm to maximise shareholder value? Are there outside relationships that are so important that the organisation is in a state of dependency?


  • Will use the Decision Diagnostic with organisations.
  • Will use the RAPID mnemonic too.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s