Uber CEO is asking leaders to apply an approach developed by Bain & Company

22 August 2018 Consulting.us

A 2006 article in the Harvard Business Review by two Bain Partners – Paul Rogers and Marcia Blenko – is getting some renewed attention after Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi referenced the piece in a memo earlier this summer. The organizational performance improvement article recommends making sure people know their roles – including who the decision-maker is.

According to a report from Business Insider, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi is telling employees at the firm to be sure they know who ‘has the D.’ In a memo circulated around the company, Khosrowshahi wrote: “You may hear me say in meetings ‘[insert name] has the D here.’ This is about being clear on who is the decision maker; I’d encourage you to do the same.”

The phrase and thought process behind it comes from a Bain & Company report on organizational effectiveness published in the Harvard Business Review in 2006. Presumably the authors, Bain Partners Paul Rogers and Marcia Blenko – and now Uber’s CEO – weren’t snickering when they started recommending people say they ‘have the D’ (or decision-making authority) to prevent indecision and business process bottlenecks.

To millennials, ‘the D’ is slang for ‘dick,’ while ‘getting the D’ is slang for sex. Cue the muffled giggles from younger workers at some meeting when some dynamic manager asks, “Alright, who has the D here?”

To be fair, you can’t expect high-powered consultants and leading business execs to be tuned into youth culture and its rapidly evolving array of slang; they presumably have better things to do. Expect some new report on organizational performance improvement to get laughed at by pesky Gen Z-ers for recommending managers proclaim they have the ‘eggplant emoji.’

Uber CEO is asking leaders to apply an approach developed by Bain & Company

‘Phrasing’ aside, the 2006 Bain report’s ideas have clearly had staying power, as seen by the Uber CEO’s adoption of them. Basically, the report’s suggestion is that companies speed up effective decision-making and prevent slowness by making sure that roles are delineated and there is no ambiguity about accountability. Firms looking to do so can use Bain’s RAPID (recommend, agree, perform, input, decide) method to develop clear decision-making rules.

First a firm recommends a proposal/alternatives, pushing certain responsibilities to business units where knowledge of relevant issues is greatest. Then, parties have to agree to the recommendation, with some people (e.g. executives) retaining veto power. However, those that veto have to provide an alternative or ‘escalate the issue’ to the person with the ‘D’ or decision-making authority. Bain recommends that few have veto power, like legal counsel, or the heads of affected units.

Then, those with input responsibilities provide evaluating facts to the recommenders, who have no obligation to act on the advice, but can take it into account if they want. Consensus, though a worthy goal, could impede action or be ‘a recipe for lowest-common-denominator compromise,’ according to the authors.

Then, the process moves to the person with the ‘D’ – the person who decides, holds accountability, and makes the organization take action on the recommendation. According to Rogers and Blenko, “He or she needs good business judgment, a grasp of the trade-offs, and an awareness of the group that will execute the decision.”

Then, the process moves on to the people who perform, executing the decision. This is still a very important role, since a good decision that is implemented poorly isn’t worth a whole lot.

In the end, the RAPID method wants to get things done quickly and effectively by clearly delineating roles, letting people know what they have to do and who has the power to decide. So the next time a manager at Uber says ‘I have the D here,’ millennials should suppress their guffaws and get on board with the lingo of operational performance effectiveness. Or RAPID practitioners can just say have the ‘crown’ or something else that signifies decision-making power.

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Six ways to create a resilient workplace culture

06 March 2019 Consulting.us

A new study by global management consulting firm North Highland has found that by actively monitoring and managing culture, leaders are able to assess engagement, ensure alignment, increase performance levels and innovation, and promote change-readiness and resiliency within their organizations. 

“Culture shows up as the output of how the organization thinks, reacts, communicates, collaborates, and makes decisions,” the study finds. But as a concept, culture can be ambiguous, making it difficult to home in models that effectively implement organizational-wide, business-changing cultural practices, besides run-of-the-mill “go team” speeches and direct leadership role-modeling. “In fact, the behaviors, actions, mindsets, and perspectives of culture can be grouped into six specific categories, which we identity as culture levers.”

These levers – some firms call them “core values” – work in tandem, and can each be leaned on more heavily at any given time to suit a business’s particular needs, such as assisting in organizational alignment, monitoring performance levels, the ongoing hunt for new, potentially lucrative, opportunities, and, importantly, crisis management, which in turn greatly aids in preparation for a rapidly changing, digital landscape.

“A crisis [or disruption] can hit any company at any time,” the study finds. “Scandal, failure, a bold new competitor, a rough earnings report, a poor product rollout – today, even companies with long track records of success are highly vulnerable to sudden turns of fortune. When a crisis is particularly threatening, it can rock the very identity of an organization.”

The six levers of culture

Release the levers, unleash the power

The six levers of culture are vision, values, behaviors, recognition, language, and systems. “While each of these isolated pieces can be adjusted specifically to make a meaningful impact on the organization, when operated on concert they amplify the power leaders have to build, manage, shift, or change culture as needed. 

Vision connects the work to the greater purpose of the organization. Purpose is an extremely important aspect of business in the current cultural landscape, with some studies predicting that its value is greater than that of profit in term of long-term success.

Values concerns what matters, what’s important, to a business. They act as guiding principles. It is largely fueled by vision. Once an inspiring vision is established, it is translated into “a clear set of values that drive every aspect of the business, breathing life into shared purpose and guiding employees in their interactions with customers,” the study finds. “Vision and values creates a shared sense of purpose at both the organizational and individual level.”

Behaviors and language go hand-in-hand to enhance culture. When the leaders of an organization – or a subset of an organization, such as a finance group – works together to create a common language that can be used to build a structure that teams can use to concretely determine what is expected of them. “By defining these levers and incorporating them into daily operations, behavioral norms are created, and bonds begin to form.”

Recognition is also important in creating an uplifting internal culture. "[It] influences the employee’s sense of belonging within an organization. Working the lever of recognition reinforces positive individual efforts and creates opportunities to set an example for other employees related to values.” But recognition is a delicate matter. People are people, after all, and there is the potential for dissent and emotional trouble if not handled correctly. Changes in pay – the announcement raises for specific teams, for example – might be poorly received by those whose pay will not be affected. This requires clear, prompt communication between leaders and employees to calm storms before they hit organizational shores.

Behaviors, language, and recognition only go so far in driving employees to participate in a positive workplace culture. Proper systems – “structures that determine how [businesses] operate and organize [their] work” –  go a long way in encouraging to employees to initiate and complete certain actions, in turn assisting a business in creating its desired culture.

Culture breeds resiliency

In its “Harvard Business Review Analytic Services' survey, which focused on resiliency, 88% of North Highland’s respondents said their employer had recently experienced or was currently experiencing a disruption. This greatly affected the employees of these organizations, most the respondents said, but “less than half felt the organization was successfully promoting a culture of resiliency.”

This is where leaders often fall short. They don’t see culture as a priority, something that must be molded, managed, directed. But waiting for a crisis or disruption is not an answer – nor is it a proper test of culture. Culture is something that is essentially tangible. It should be constructed, not hoped for. Culture is like a garden, the study says. And gardens, like culture, need tending, constant care. They must be regularly cultivated, pruned, trimmed.

“The ability to get back up, realign, and move forward is dependent on the organization relying on its culture and pulling the right levers to overcome challenges. Most companies and most leaders need to take that to heart and start using their culture levers more effectively and often,” the study concludes.

For more details on the report, download the study 'Intentional Cultures Are Resilient' from North Highland's website.