One thing that became very clear over the course of the Apple revolution from the late 1990s on upward was that the company had a very different culture than anywhere else, shaped and built around Steve Jobs’ personality and vision. One of the most powerful, yet simple tools Jobs used to create Apple’s culture of high quality outcomes was the “DRI” – the Designated Responsible Individual.Fortune magazine’s 2011 insightful article on Jobs’ management methods explains it well:
At Apple there is never any confusion as to who is responsible for what. Internal Applespeak even has a name for it, the “DRI,” or directly responsible individual. Often the DRI’s name will appear on an agenda for a meeting, so everybody knows who is responsible. “Any effective meeting at Apple will have an action list,” says a former employee. “Next to each action item will be the DRI.” A common phrase heard around Apple when someone is trying to learn the right contact on a project: “Who’s the DRI on that?”
From “action items” to projects large and small, everything that needed to get done would have a DRI, someone to ensure success and take responsibility to deal with failure.
Of course, getting things done often requires people with different talents and expertise – that’s why teams are essential to businesses in the first place. Obviously forgetting to assign responsibility for an outcome to someone results in not much getting done. But what happens if you assign the responsibility to more than one person? Double, redundant accountability with a higher probability of success? Unfortunately, that’s not the case.In our personal careers with businesses large and small, we’ve seen it happen over and over again – Responsibilities assigned generally to a group rather than one person get less priority and attention. People in the group tend to wait to take action assuming someone else will handle it. This results in delayed work and lower quality outcomes. At best, one or two people really get working on it but do so with a degree of uncertainty – and so everything comes together much more slowly.
There’s a saying that “There’s no I in Teamwork”. However “I”, as in “individual responsibility” is in fact essential to teamwork. When responsibility is ambiguous, everyone feels less accountable. With one person designated as in charge of the result, there’s not only accountability in that individual, but the team knows they are accountable each other. Everyone is a DRI for their part, accountable to each other as well as the DRI for the overall body of work. Work goes more smoothly – and faster.As Apple team members left to work at other companies they took the DRI method with them. On the surface, it seems simple to implement and has a proven record of success; adopting it is an easy step to take. However, sustaining a DRI culture over a period of time, takes extra discipline and focus without reverting to prior habits and letting things fall through the cracks.
Tasks With Multiple DRIs?
Wait! Tasks with multiple DRIs? That contradicts the core principle of DRIs. How can that be? In our research, we learned from the community that there are in fact common processes where a task can have multiple DRI’s, but not in a way that’s adverse to the core principle of DRIs. For example: Everyone assigned needs to complete their annual review by a certain date; Everyone needs to watch a compliance training video; Everyone needs to acknowledge they’ve read the new company policy; Etc… In these cases there is in fact a single DRI per task–it’s just that there are multiple instances of the same task, each with its own DRI.
TeamworkIQ Helps You Drive Processes with DRI
In designing TeamworkIQ we had to decide how to handle assigning tasks. Would we allow work to be assigned to more than one person? Or, would there be a one task, one assignee rule? We considered a few options, since we’d seen tasks keep slipping down the priority list without someone taking responsibility for chasing them, and we knew that had to be avoided. TeamworkIQ makes it easy to put the DRI principle work. Remember those meeting notes with action items? Just cc TeamworkIQ on your email to the team and TeamworkIQ turns those into actionable tasks and process steps, shared in an online checklist for all to see, driving accountable, trackable progress for all involved. Got standard procedures, processes or workflows that need to be followed? TeamworkIQ can automate those too. For each process step identify the directly responsible individual using the @ symbol in the text describing the task or work for which they are accountable. Just type. It’s that easy. TeamworkIQ turns the text into trackable tasks and helps move the work forward where everyone can see progress, results, or lack thereof.And if you do not yet know who the DRI will be, that’s OK. Simply type the name of a role or group like “@Marketing Manager” or “@Human Resources”. TeamworkIQ understands that those are placeholders for later. True, that such assignments are ambiguous and initially lack a DRI. In these cases work can proceed, but TeamworkIQ will remind you that a DRI is still needed. Using a role name or a group is also designed to support multiple member assignee lists so that when a single task can be replicated for and assigned to each person in the list. Embracing DRIs, but preserving flexibility in the process is just one of the many ways TeamworkIQ helps you create clear accountability, responsibility and get results.Sign up for TeamworkIQ | See it in action