When it comes to discussing effective decision-making processes, my Bain colleague Jimmy Allen has a favorite parable: He talks about an early job working as a “clearer” for the deputy assistant of international trade within the US Department of Commerce.
The clearer existed to collect approvals for the stream of official documents passed around Washington. Typically, some policy guy would draft a document and then staple a yellow sheet of paper on the front with 50 or more names and titles on it. Jimmy’s job was to shuffle between offices up and down the Washington Mall seeking signatures and fixes. Any adjustments would mean a second draft and another trip around the mall in the sticky summer heat.