Decision-making tools help organizations identify all the activities that must take place for a decision to be made and executed well. Using these tools, organizations determine and define the roles that individuals will play in decisions of different types.
There are several decision-making tools nonprofit leaders can use, usually with acronyms for the roles that individuals can take on during the decision-making process. For example, RAPID:
- "R" stands for "recommender"—the person who drives the process.
- "A" is for an individual who needs to "approve" a recommendation (or can veto it).
- "P" stands for "perform"—the person who carries out the decision once it has been made.
- "I" stands for "input." An "I" must be consulted, but does not have a vote or veto.
- "D" means "decide." The "D" has final authority to commit the organization to action.
Other decision-rights tools include:
- ASICK (Accountable, Support, Inform, Consult, Okay)
- CAIRO (Consulted, Approves, Informed, Responsible, Out of loop)
- IMRN (Input, Make, Ratify, Notify)
- LACTI (Lead, Accountable, Consult, Tasked, Informed)
- RACI (Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed)
- REDI (Responsibility, Execution, Decision-Making, Influence)
How it's used
A clear understanding of decision roles and structures, or "decision rights," is an important component of an effective organization. Organizations are often faced with critical decisions, of both the major-and-infrequent variety (e.g., establishing a five-year strategy, developing or closing major programs or services, launching or exiting partnerships) and the smaller-but-more-frequent type (e.g., budgeting, hiring, and staffing). Unstructured decision-making processes and roles can create bottlenecks. Whether applied to the entire organization or just to specific programs, departments, or decisions, clear decision rights help organizations to:
- Make more effective decisions by giving authority and accountability to a single decision-maker
- Make more efficient decisions by including only necessary participants in the process and assigning clear responsibility to the driver of the process
- Increase transparency about staff roles in the process
- Reduce conflict by increasing role clarity
Introducing a decision-rights tool is a multistep process:
- Introduce the concept and tool: Ensure everyone in the organization understands the goal of clarifying decision-making roles, the specific tool that will be used (e.g. RAPID), and the process for rolling it out.
- Identify key decisions and diagnose problems: Select a handful of key decisions causing the organization pain and identify what is currently holding these decisions back.
- Apply the tool to a few key decisions: Clarify how these key decisions should be made in the future, using the decision-rights tool to redesign the process. Assign clear roles ("R," "I," and so forth) to each person involved in the decision-making process. Begin making these decisions in the new way. Assess the improvements and modify roles as necessary.
- Roll it out more broadly: After piloting the tool on a few key decisions, use the same process to clarify all other critical decisions within the organization.
- Step back and review the whole: Continue to assess whether decisions are being made in an efficient and effective manner. As the organization evolves or grows, the roles may need to be reassigned.
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Examples and case studies
Boys Town: Clarifying Decision-Making Roles Between Headquarters and Sites
This case study shows how Boys Town's leaders used RAPID to help them clarify decision-making roles between headquarters and sites.
Aspire Public Schools: Building the Organizational Capacity for Healthy Growth
This article explains how leaders at Aspire Public Schools used RAPID to clarify decision-making roles as part of their efforts to strengthen the organization.