Another big difference between the two types of teams was the clarity of both responsibility and authority. Amongst the less effective teams, it was harder to pinpoint who would make the final decision and take responsibility to executing the outcome.

In many cases, we saw these teams try to reach consensus, often without success. Once all avenues to consensus were exhausted, there seemed to be a sense of resignation in the room that nothing would happen.

Coming into meetings with the most effective teams, it was clear who was responsible for everything that would be discussed. (At Apple, for example, every item in a meeting’s agenda has a DRI—a Directly Responsible Individual—who will make the call on what will happen next for that item.) The people responsible would seek perspectives and opinions, but in the end, everyone knew whatever they decided was how things would proceed.

Knowing that there was a person who would reach a decision, even when that decision wasn’t what others might do in the same situation, seemed to keep things positive. Combined with an attitude of experimentation and learning, this kept morale really high.