Recently we facilitated a day-long meeting for one of our clients who is looking to build a new governance model for their regional clinical enterprise. It’s a complex undertaking, requiring them to bring together a broad spectrum of stakeholders—their own employed medical group, a handful of independent groups with whom they’ve built partnerships over the years, a joint venture partner, the leaders of the system’s hospitals, and their academic affiliate. All of these relationships—each with its own decision-making structure and incentive model—have accreted over time but have not operated as a cohesive whole. Now, faced with an increasingly competitive marketplace, the system wants to build an overarching structure to coordinate the activities of the disparate constituents, and to allow them to go to market with a unified platform capable of delivering better value to consumers and purchasers.
In preparing for the meeting, we quickly realized that the crux of the problem is decision rights. Every initiative or major decision that the system wants to make is getting bogged down in an endless process of discussion, second-guessing, and turf battles between the constituent groups. In our session with the group, we shared our perspective that the most important part of designing any organizational structure is being very explicit about how decisions are going to get made. To that end, we provided with them a decision-making framework that we’ve seen implemented in other organizations, a variation on the RACI responsibility assignment matrix that’s been a mainstay in organizational science for decades.
At its heart, it’s a role-based decision process, in which different stakeholders are assigned discrete parts to play in coming to a decision. RACI is an acronym for four of the pivotal roles: Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, and Informed. There’s no magic to the specific framework—indeed, there’s a multitude of different flavors of RACI.
(We like the Bain & Company notion of asking “Who has the ‘D’”, or—to paraphrase George W. Bush—who’s the Decider?) Across the day, we introduced the framework, role-played making a specific decision using it, and then began to evaluate a strawman model for the unified clinical enterprise using the framework.
We’ll keep you posted as the model moves from evaluation to implementation, but we were struck by the power of having an explicit, concrete discussion around decision rights. Given the complexity and organizational inertia that characterize many healthcare organizations, taking the time to clarify who gets to make which decisions, and how, seems like a worthwhile endeavor.