posted on February 16th, 2017 in Category: 1

By Des FitzGerald
Entrepreneur in Residence
Maine Venture Fund

There are a number of tools out there that can be useful to think about when it comes to managing your organization. One of the best is called GRPI.

I was first introduced to it GRPI by Dr. Noel Tichy, a professor of Management and Organizations at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business. GRPI, which stands for Goals, Roles, Process and Interpersonal, can be used in any setting that requires people to work together. It is applicable to a Board of Directors, a functional team, a company department or for the entire company as a whole.

The GRPI structure functions as a template to think about as one endeavors to do virtually anything. An easy analogy, that might help to illustrate this, is to consider two friends who decide that they want to meet at the park and play catch — they both arrive at the appointed hour, one has a baseball, the other a football. Basically, they had not established a clear Goal for their reason for meeting at the park. Their goal was, in fact, to play catch with a baseball, but neither made that clear and time and effort was wasted. For most of us in business life, this goal can apply to the mission of a company — why are we on the face of the earth or what is our purpose for being? It can equally apply to a meeting. How many of us have gone to a meeting without a stated goal for that meeting — why are we here? For a team in a particular charge of work, what is the clear and stated goal for time together?

To continue the analogy, the two friends have now determined that the “catch” they want to play is baseball, so the following day they arrive at the park with a baseball, but both friends come with catcher mitts. This is the Role portion of their time together. Yes, they want to play baseball, but who is catching and who is’s pitching? Determining roles in an organization or team is critical to a functional outcome. Who is running a meeting and who is taking minutes? Who is the person responsible for the outcome and who is in charge of messaging to the customer, the board or the employees? Clearly defining everyone’s role in a company or team cannot be overstated. It creates the foundation for functional understanding and a less conflicted and more efficient way forward.

Okay, so the two friends now know that their goal is to play baseball and they know who the pitcher and catcher are to be. The next day they arrive at the park and the pitcher gets ready to throw the first pitch. The catcher, expecting a curveball, gets a fastball instead and misses it entirely. We are now firmly into the Process part of working together. The pitcher and catcher will need to create a system that allows them to communicate as to what pitch is being thrown. A series of signals gets are developed.

For a work team this could be:

• how do we measure our success;
• how often do we meet;
• have we assigned the right people to the right tasks;
• have we taken in the needs of all stakeholders etc.;
• how are the activities or tasks being focused and coordinated?

It can even be as basic as do we allow team members to multitask with their phones or computers while in a meeting or do meetings start and end on time?

To finally stretch this analogy to its limit, we now have two friends who are playing baseball; one is the catcher the other, the pitcher. They have developed a series of hand signals to determine what pitch is to be thrown — their process. What happens now in the function of that process if something goes wrong.? Hand signals need to be changed? The pitcher gets tired or wild? Is there, in this team or organization, the spirit of trust? Is there an understanding of how mistakes get resolved? Is the team open to ideas coming from anyone? Is there the respect in place to accommodate this? Is there a way to check the validity of the process established? This often difficult Interpersonal is the established culture of that team, board or company. Ideally it is nonjudgmental, inclusive, flexible and creative. These can all happen in a system, but only if the preceding goals, roles and process are clearly delineated.

In summary:

G – Goals:
Core mission of the organization or team. Why are we here?

R – Roles:
Allocation of work. Who is doing what? Job descriptions and lines of responsibility.

P – Process:
How do we create a system that clarifies decision making, conflict management, communications and problem solving?.

I – Interpersonal:
Is the process of doing work inclusive? Is there the trust and honesty in place to be creative? How do we discuss and resolve problems?

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