Talking in Circles

We’ve all been there. You’re sitting in a meeting that already has gone over its allotted time and think to yourself, what exactly are the next steps here. It seems everyone is talking in circles, bouncing ideas around, but times up and there’s a lack of clarity on how to move forward. This scenario plays out in most every company large and small, especially matrixed organizations. Compare that with the professional services space, where you’re not as likely to encounter this dynamic as a result of a flat organization. This is one major downside of a matrix model. It’s hard for one individual to truly own an initiative when it touches so many cross functional teams. I recommend startups adopt the DRI approach so each party understands where they stand in the decision making process.  


Decision Maker – this is the individual who owns the budget or is sponsoring the initiative, typically C-Suite. They have the ultimate veto power on a deal but this doesn’t mean they should be a blocker. Jeff Bezos, who is a notoriously challenging manager, does not like to derail projects, but he wants his opinion known. He uses three simple words in meetings with his team where key decisions need to be made. He says I “Disagree and Commit.” This is not about thinking your team is wrong and missing the bigger idea, but rather a “genuine disagreement of opinion that offers a chance for someone to weigh her opinion, followed by a quick sincere commitment to go their way. Additionally, it’s the decision maker’s responsibility to designate roles on a project and if they fall into the R or I bucket. Lastly, the decision maker should do her best to make sure that she’s not engaging in sidebar conversations with influencers that could leave the responsible party out of the loop. 

Responsible – this is an individual who is responsible for making sure that the influencers are being guided in the right direction and if any new information from upper management needs to be disseminated. This is a great opportunity for an employee to shine and should be a key aspect of their own performance review and subsequent professional growth. This cohort also can act as a proxy for the Decision maker in their absence and is important that upper management embrace this delegation of power.  It’s also okay for the responsible party to be split between two people but no more.     

Influencers – these are individuals who are responsible for researching opportunities and putting together recommendations. They don’t often have an individual budget and can’t bind the company but they can influence the outcome. Furthermore, this group could consist of classic shared services such as accounting, legal and HR as well as consultants.   

I realize there are always going to be exceptions here, but simply taking the step to actively identify roles up front on a project will help move things along and give a sense of empowerment to the team.  

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