Let’s be clear: There’s a tool for decision-making that can change your life.

Ryan Smith holding the D sign.

If you work in education, this might sound familiar.

Your boss has asked you to serve on a committee or working group. She values your opinion and really wants your input.

You’re tempted to feel flattered. But you and everyone else on the committee know she’s already made her decision. She wants you to feel as if your input matters, but she’s really just looking for validation. You spend hours attending weekly meetings until a decision is announced. No one is surprised by the result, but everyone walks away feeling disgruntled.

Round Rock ISD team standing together with Kristina Snow second from right.

Using a framework for decision making has helped Kristina Snow (second from right) and the team at Round Rock ISD make decisions more swiftly and effectively.

It’s not really about the decision. Everyone can live with that. It’s the way the decision was made.

As a Holdsworth District Leadership participant, one of the most valuable tools I’ve taken from our learning sessions is a framework for making decisions called the RAPID® method. Pioneered by Bain & Company, this tool is used across the world to help teams make decisions more swiftly and effectively.

Recently, I helped lead a workshop on decision-making at the TASA Midwinter Conference with Marina Lin, Managing Director of Programs for Holdsworth. It was exciting to see so many of my peers discovering this tool and thinking about how they could apply it at their districts.

At our district, pulling out the RAPID® framework before we head into a meeting or embark on a new project helps us avoid pitfalls like the one above. It gives us an opportunity to clarify up front how the decision will be made and where everyone fits into the process.

Kristina Snow, Director of Leadership Development at Round Rock ISD.

Kristina Snow, Director of Leadership Development at Round Rock ISD

Let me break it down. In general, there are four types of decisions:

  • Autonomous – Leader makes the decision alone but may ask for information or consult with othersbeforehand.
  • Consultative – Leader involves others in the decision-making process. People can weigh in with opinions and wield influence, but the final decision will be what the leader thinks is best.
  • Joint – Leader shares the problem and decision is made by consensus. Everyone has a say and works toward a solution all can support, even if it’s not their first choice.
  • Delegative – Leader delegates decision to an individual or group, often with parameters.

Once it’s clear how the decision will be made, it’s time to assign roles. This is where RAPID® comes in.

  • Recommend – People who gather input, analyze data and get buy-in to put forth a recommendation
  • Agree – People who must agree to the decision, often called veto power
  • Perform – People who will carry out the decision once it’s been made
  • Input – People who must be consulted on a recommendation, but don’t have veto power
  • Decide – Person or people with the final authority on the decision

In the scenario above, the leader could have let her team know the decision was being made autonomously. She could have invited them to give their opinions or raise concerns, but with the understanding that she “holds the D,” a shorthand reference for the person making the final decision.

Smiling participant in TASA midwinter conference.

Participants at TASA’s Midwinter conference engaged in a decision-making workshop led by Kristina Snow and Marina Lin.

The decision may not change, but the group would likely appreciate the leader’s honesty and transparency. Any disappointment they felt about the decision would be less likely to turn into hard feelings against the leader herself.

At Round Rock ISD, using this framework has helped lower the amount and conflict and drama that arises when you put a diverse group of people in a room and ask them to solve a tough problem. It has also helped everyone make decisions in a more timely fashion.

I’ll be honest – sometimes it gets messy. At one point, we weren’t sure who had the D to decide who had the D! But we’ve found that when we forget to use the tool, our meetings often meander, and progress slows. As soon as we stop and define roles, things get moving again.

In the video below, hear more insights on decision-making from Mandy Estes, our chief of teaching and learning at Round Rock ISD and Jo Ann Fey, assistant superintendent at Southwest ISD.

For a deeper dive into RAPID®, this article walks through a case study from Aspire Public Schools and gives tips for getting the most out of the tool.