The Industry

Uber Employees Encouraged to Say They “Have the D” to Establish Authority

CEO Dara Khosrowshahi was reportedly unaware that "the D" does not always mean "the decision maker."
CEO Dara Khosrowshahi was reportedly unaware that “the D” does not always mean “the decision maker.” GERARD JULIEN/AFP/Getty Images

Business Insider reported Tuesday about an internal memo that Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi sent to employees in May outlining a new policy to make meetings more efficient. It reads, in part, “You may hear me say in meetings ‘[insert name] has the D here’. This is about being clear on who is the decision maker; I’d encourage you to do the same.”

Khosrowshahi was reportedly unaware of the sexual innuendos associated with the phrase “the D” and was instead focused on reducing “bureaucracy creep” and ensuring that meetings with many different teams and leaders are not hamstrung by questions over the company’s hierarchy. He wrote, “While our scale and scope are unrivaled, they come at a potential cost: increased bureaucracy, slower decision making, less accountability, and too many people in too many meetings where it’s unclear who the decision makers are.”

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This terminology apparently comes from a 2006 Harvard Business Review article entitled “Who Has the D?: How Clear Decision Roles Enhance Organizational Performance.” The authors are partners at Bain & Company, a consulting company that Uber hired to improve its organizational management, according to Business Insider.

The article explains how a global auto manufacturer was missing its production milestones because there was “a lack of clarity about who has the D.” It also lays out how a department store chain in the UK was inefficiently stocking merchandise until “the buyers were given the D.” This particular case study, the authors argue, illustrates that “when it comes down to a struggle between two functions, there may be good reasons to locate the D in either place.”

An Uber spokesman told Business Insider, “As you may have read, Uber is now run by your dad—so, no, that interpretation was lost on [Khosrowshahi], but he appreciates Business Insider pointing it out.”

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