Directly Responsible Individuals

Aug 18, 2023

Apple has a concept called the Directly Responsible Individual (DRI). On a particular project, that person is solely held accountable for the project’s success (or failure). The DRI can be anyone from an executive to a manager to an individual contributor.

Done right, the DRI system should:

  • Clarify responsibility. Who should I talk to? Who makes the final decision? Where does the buck stop?
  • Increases individual ownership. When individuals feel a sense of ownership, they perform better (at least accurate, in my experience).
  • Delineate responsibility. The DRI model requires tasks to be explicitly assigned.
  • Streamline the decision-making process. More unilateral decision-making can be better for risky projects (see veto power and decision-making processes).

Some of the challenges:

  • Potential overemphasis on individuality. Need to balance individual prerogative and collective teamwork.
  • Not ideal for all decisions. Some situations require extra risk mitigation and oversight (i.e., committees, vetos, the board, etc.).

For a public description of how this model works in practice, check out the page on how DRI works at GitLab in their employee handbook, which is open-source.