Bain's RAPID® Framework

Assigning Roles to Avoid Stalemate

Bain's RAPID® Framework - Assigning Roles to Avoid Stalemate

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Caroline works in the marketing department of a major auto manufacturer. Her team has been using focus groups to identify the features customers want in their next generation of car. After extensive market research, the team has finalized its list of essentials.  

Unfortunately, Caroline's list is quite different from the one that the product development team has put together. 

Both groups believe that they have the authority to decide which features should be included in the new model, but they can't agree on what those features should be. They've spent so much time arguing over this that progress on the car has stalled.  

Does this scenario sound familiar to you? Without a clear delineation of roles and power in a complex decision-making process, projects can be delayed, and your organization can miss out on all sorts of opportunities. 

Bain's RAPID® Framework streamlines decision making by designating an accountable person at each stage of the process. In this article, we'll explore how you can use it to take the potential for stalemate out of group decision-making activities.

About the Model

In January 2006, Paul Rogers and Marcia Blenko of Bain and Co. published their RAPID Framework in the Harvard Business Review.

Many organizations struggle to make good decisions because of poor accountability – either too many people take responsibility – or no one does! RAPID helps teams overcome this problem by assigning roles that clarify who should have input, who makes the final decision, and who implements that decision.  

The five letters in RAPID represent five critical roles in decision making:

  • Recommend - Make a proposal, gather input and provide data and analysis.
  • Agree - Vote "yes" or "no" to accept or reject the recommendation.
  • Perform - Implement the decision once it has been made.
  • Input - Consult the "right people" (usually those implementing the decision.)
  • Decide - Make a formal and definitive decision.

Note: 

In practice, these roles are generally performed in this order – "Recommend, Input, Agree, Decide, Perform," but RIADP doesn't make for a very catchy acronym! 

When to Use the RAPID Framework

The RAPID Framework is best suited to complex, multi-layered decisions that involve a number of different people or departments. (In simpler situations, going to this level of specifying people's responsibilities may be unnecessary.) 

Despite its name, the process can be time-consuming, so it may not be appropriate when you need to make a quick decision.  

You can also use RAPID to analyze past decisions that failed to address decision-making bottlenecks in your organization.

How to Apply the RAPID Framework

Apply the RAPID Framework while preparing your brief for the decision-making team. Use the tips and strategies below to help you.

Recommend

People in this role are responsible for submitting ideas or proposed courses of action, or offering alternative ideas to one that's already on the table. 

The quality of a decision is often determined by the quality of the alternatives available, so support Recommenders by making sure that they have access to all of the resources they need to gather sufficient data. Verify their sources to make sure that their facts and perspectives are sound. 

Recommenders need to have strong communication skills, so that they can consult experts, key stakeholders and anyone else who is knowledgeable about the situation. Group brainstorming techniques will help them generate plenty of good ideas. 

When they have gathered all of the relevant information, work with your Recommenders to create proposals that communicate the benefits of each option clearly and effectively. 

Agree

People in this role have the power to vote "yes" or "no" to the recommendations to narrow down the options available. When several people are involved, they may enter into spirited debates and negotiations – both among themselves and with the Recommenders – before they settle on a final proposal or shortlist.

Take care to keep this group small, so there is not too much debate. Too many people with the power to vote will slow the decision-making process down. If a consensus seems unlikely, escalate the issue to the Decider. The Agreers' role isn't to override Recommenders, only to help to narrow the funnel of ideas before they're passed on to the Decider.

When assigning the Agree role, look for professionals with a good knowledge of any legalities (compliance with government or industry regulators, for example), or consider the leaders of teams that will be directly affected by the final decision. 

Work with people in this role to conduct a Risk Analysis for each recommendation. Use tools like Decision Tree Analysis or Impact Analysis, so that everyone fully understands the implications of each option.

To avoid psychological bias, consider conducting a Blindspot Analysis or using the Six Thinking Hats technique to see each option from multiple perspectives.

Input

Decision making is informed by input from experts, consultants and team members with in-depth knowledge of the strategy or situation at hand. The Inputter's role is to look at the ideas or proposals made by the Recommenders and to advise on the likelihood of their suggestions leading to a good outcome.

You can support people in the Input role by asking these questions:

  • Is this proposal practical, and how could it be improved?
  • What are the risks involved?
  • What benefits do you see coming from the proposal?

People in other roles may have addressed some of these questions already, but a second opinion from Inputters can help to clarify matters.

Consensus shouldn't be your end goal, but it helps if the majority of Inputters buy into the plan. 

Decide

The Decider is the person – often a high-level leader or stakeholder – who has the final say in the decision. He or she needs to be intimately familiar with the risks and trade-offs involved with the decision, and must be prepared to be held accountable for the outcome, for better or for worse. 

Choose someone with excellent organizational skills and the charisma and personal leadership needed to oversee the change management process. The best way to provide support is by making sure that you fully understand the data and tools used by the Agreers who voted "yes" on the recommendation. That way, you'll be equipped to answer any questions that the Decider may have.

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Perform

When a final decision has been made, the Performers must be ready to implement it. This is a critical role because decisions can often be implemented poorly, or not at all.

The best people for this role are often those who were previously Recommenders, because they're already familiar with the ins and outs of the situation or strategy.

Use appropriate project management techniques to implement the solution in a controlled way. Change management is also important here – people are often resistant to change, so be prepared to invest additional effort in achieving buy-in to the new initiative.

Key Points

The RAPID Framework was devised by Paul Rogers and Marcia Blenko of Bain and Co. to remove institutional bottlenecks in the decision-making process. It works by assigning clear roles to different members of the organization. 

RAPID stands for:

  • Recommend.
  • Agree.
  • Perform.
  • Input.
  • Decide.

The different roles, which are typically performed in the order R-I-A-D-P, make it easier to come to a decision by eliminating confusion over who is responsible for what.

The method works best with complex or multi-layered decisions, but is less effective with ones that are simple or time-critical.