Getting approval for a new project is often daunting and almost always difficult. Even if you have seemingly sufficient evidence to communicate your need, convincing your superior to approve your initiative can be quite nuanced. A delayed approval process typically increases the risk that your project misses a deadline or even fails to get off the ground. This article will help you build your case and overcome the typical obstacles to management decisions in your organization.
Make your case effective
Many organizations have a detailed project approval process, which requires you to prepare a business case as part of qualifying the initiative. Not every initiative is worthy of a business case, but if your request includes resources and/or money, you are fighting for pre-allocated budget. Your challenge is to anticipate the issues and present a case that eliminates the largest obstacles.
Know your manager’s workstyle
It’s easier to get a project decision from your manager when you know their personality and work style. Whether your manager is collaborative or authoritative, you’ll need to identify their style to communicate most effectively. Also understand corporate and functional goals, and work to ensure that your ideas and requests logically and easily align with those goals. You may find it helpful to ask your boss to review your department's initiatives for the upcoming period before you propose your project. The more insight you have on how your boss and team will be evaluated, the easier it will be to tailor your request to fit within those parameters.
- Provide your manager with 2-3 options about the decision, with explanations for each option
- Detail the pros and cons of the decision as to how they affect the customer, project and your manager
- If the decision has a business impact, then make sure the decision-maker is aware of this, especially if it affects financial numbers
Give the decision a deadline
A deadline provides you a milestone on which to follow-up. A request for a decision without a deadline is much easier to ignore versus a decision with a deadline. Managers are busy, which makes it important to attach a deadline to your decision request. Communicate the deadline as a process:
I need a decision about X, before my team can do Y on this date.
Use the art of following-up
Following-up with management can vary across organizational cultures. You can potentially prolong a decision if you follow up too soon or too often with a busy manager. Understand the culture of your organization when it comes to following up on a decision. If you haven’t worked with the manager much, you can respectfully ask about the best way to follow up on getting the answers you need.
On fast-moving projects, a slow decision response can block project progress. Referring to a “block” is language to stress during your follow ups. If you go in for a third follow-up with no answer, ask the manager if they require any additional information from you about your project to make the decision.
Get the answer
When getting a project decision from your boss, it’s important to know how to get a decision for better or worse. This means taking the time to learn about your team’s culture, your manager’s way of doing things, and the right amount of follow-up needed among other communication skills. Project management and decision making are data-driven and may require a business case. This will provide a view of your schedule, progress, ability to be agile, and project communications. Decision extraction is not an easy art to master, but the cost of not getting decisions is high when budgets and deadlines slip. Once you can get those decisions in an appropriate time, your team can get to work, and you can deliver what you promised the customer.