Implications of the RAPID decision-making model


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In a previous post we discussed three different decision-making models including RAPID (by Bain & Company), Digital Insight Management and the Lean Analytics Cycle. The post described the basic idea behind the three different models without exploring the implications or weaknesses of each model. This post aims to do just this for the RAPID model (please note that RAPID is a registered trademark of Bain & Company).

Does RAPID equal efficiency?

As explained in the previous post, RAPID aims to improve the decision-making process, allowing for better decisions to be made more quickly. Furthermore, it focuses on ensuring that decision-makers learn from past experiences to continually refine the process. The main foci of the model, however, present certain weaknesses.

Model focus and implications

The need to clearly define responsibilities and roles

Although the model emphasizes the need to define responsibilities and roles, the difference between having these set out on paper and acted upon can be immense. Organizations that have come to adopt an internal individualistic/competitive culture will often have difficulty in building the sort of trust or confidence necessary for the free flow of information that is crucial for this model. Furthermore, RAPID information flows may result in the need for cross-departmental or increasing amounts of vertical communication, which may not have been practiced before, and organizational members may show resistance to this.

Strong strategic planning and prioritization of decisions based on their business value

Whilst this is a valiant aim, in reality it is often extremely difficult to implement. Organizations are based on and built by stakeholders; some internal and some external. Often stakeholders have conflicting agendas and reconciling these to understand what truly brings value to the business may be near impossible. For example, in a public company; it is quite often the case that minor shareholders care only about the firm’s short-term profits, whilst internal organizational members may wish to build a strong brand in order to ensure long-term profits, or even focus on something less tangible such as organizational principles or sustainability.

An appropriate balance between control and creative freedom

Whilst the model aims to remove constraints to creativity to encourage freethinking in decision-making, the need for speed and creative processes may often conflict. Creative professionals often have difficulty in setting deadlines as the creative process is not at all straight forward, and therefore the focus on creative freedom and the focus on speed may not be compatible.

Action, speed, and adaptability

There are numerous factors that may act as obstacles to quick, adaptive decision-making that leads to action. Firstly, unexpected internal or external occurrences that impact on the decision-making process may be difficult to cope with or overcome or may disrupt the expected decision time frame. Secondly, the focus on speed may undermine the quality of the final decision where there is poor information infrastructure. For example, whilst information available is limited and time to gather new information scarce, an optimal decision may not be made based on the access to limited information. Conversely, where a great deal of information is available but systems or resources (including human) are not sufficient to process it all, again a suboptimal decision may be made. Apart from information overload or lack of information, lack of expertise or a great deal of different expertise may also slow down the process. Where expertise is insufficient to make an optimized decision, RAPID will not lead to the best result. But on the contrary, where many individuals involved in the process possess a great deal of conflicting expertise, reaching a decision may also be difficult.

Therefore, although Bain & Company’s RAPID model is considered one of the best models for decision-making and is employed by many organizations, a number of inherent limitations plague the model. That is not to say that RAPID is not a great model, only that the nature of decision-making means that it is an extremely difficult process to undertake to achieve optimized results.

Does your organization use the RAPID decision-making model? How do you overcome these obstacles?

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Megan Wilcock

VP of Business Development for Sweetspot. Responsible for strategic brand development, marketing and business development. BA/BComm graduate from the University of Melbourne. My passion lies in finding creative solutions and encouraging collaboration.

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