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Every manufacturer, for instance, faces a balancing act between product development and marketing during the design of a new product. Who should decide what? Cross-functional decisions too often result in ineffective compromise solutions, which frequently need to be revisited because the right people were not involved at the outset. The fourth decision-making bottleneck, inside versus outside partners, has become familiar with the rise of outsourcing, joint ventures, strategic alliances, and franchising.

In the case of outsourcing, for instance, brand-name apparel and footwear marketers once assumed that overseas suppliers could be responsible for decisions about plant employees’ wages and working conditions. Big mistake. Clearing the Bottlenecks T he most important step in unclogging decisionmaking bottlenecks is assigning clear roles and responsibilities. Good decision makers recognize which decisions really matter to performance. They think through who should recommend a particular path, who needs to agree, who should have input, who has ultimate responsibility for making the decision, and who is accountable for follow-through.

The stacking system was voted the worst culprit. Would evidence-based management have kept that company from adopting this deeply unpopular program? We think so. First, managers would have immediately questioned whether their company was similar enough to GE in various respects that a practice cribbed from it could be expected to play out in the same way. Then, they would have been compelled to take a harder look at the data presumably supporting forced ranking – the claim that this style of talent management actually has caused adherents to be more successful.

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