At the heart of high performing organizations is clarity of decision-making roles. I have one client that illustrates this problem to a T. It is a partnership. Its mission is to educate people about important policy issues. There is no CEO. No one is clearly in charge. No one can define exactly what each person should do — and, more importantly, not do. Adding to the confusion is the fact that the goals have changed over time, which naturally affects the work done by each partner.
For example, one partner wants to review and give feedback on the publications produced by another partner. But should it? Is that appropriate? No one can say. Given the lack of role clarity, each partner struggles to assert their particular agenda and to carve out a greater role in decision making. This ongoing tug of war consumes huge amounts of time and energy, sapping the resources of the organization.
What can I do? First, I can name the problem and put the conversation about roles squarely on the table. I can facilitate agreements about ground rules and role definition. Second, I can help them evolve a clearer decision-making structure, naming the particular processes that get engaged for major decisions. Third, I can look at the gaps in capacity where these power struggles tend to occur, and motivate people to put more capacity in place to close the gaps.
Will that make this a high performing organization? No, because role clarity is only one of the nine habits of high performing organizations. But with decision-making roles clarified, we can focus on defining outcomes, strategies and operating rules with the right group of people at the table.
And that will be a big accomplishment!
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