Project managers must become master jugglers to be adept at their role, from trying to stretch personnel to fill gaps or switching a work schedule back-to-front due to supplier delays. A large amount of this juggling is also down to having a slow and confusing approval process. Task strands can get held up, not able to move onto the next phase even though the work has been done, just because no-one is aware of who needs to sign off on what.
Streamlining processes for approving or rejecting work within your project can make a huge difference to how smoothly it progresses and even whether its ultimately successful or not. But how exactly do you create such an effective and efficient approval process? Well follow these tips and you’ll be a long way towards it.
- Keep the number of reviewers as small as possible
It stands to reason that the more people that have to sign off on something, the longer it will take. However, reducing the numbers is not as simple as just cutting people, approval is necessary for quality, organizational and regulatory reasons among others. It can happen though, that people get added to a process for the sake of convenience or politeness. The trick is to include only those stakeholders who absolutely must be involved in sign-off and to treat that position of responsibility like gold dust.
- Make dates very clear
With so many people suffering from email overload, it’s hardly too much of a surprise when material is received for approval, but then the deadline is subsequently forgotten about, leading to very avoidable delays. A key to streamlining processes is to make the dates you expect action by very clear by giving it high prominence in communications. Setting up automatic reminders at specific times can also help to “nudge” relevant stakeholders to take the required action.
- Identify steps clearly
The approval process can seem like a complicated endeavor, leading most team members and stakeholders to just avoid thinking about it and rely on the PM to manage everything. By simplifying the description of the process, like by using a flow-chart to visually represent the stages of approval, it becomes a lot easier for everyone to understand and engage with what you need to achieve.
- Create a checklist for reviewers to know exactly what’s expected of their feedback
A big work turn-off for many is being asked to give feedback on something with no guidelines or precedence. How should it be phrased? Who will see it? What will help the project get better? To make sure you get exactly what you need and to avoid striking fear into the stakeholders who are being asked for approval, create a checklist which breaks the whole “approval process” into much more manageable segments.
- Set out “Automatic” rejection or approval criteria
Sometimes sign-off is going to be automatic anyway as certain required thresholds have been reached. In this case, informing stakeholders that the pre-decided criteria for a task strand have been met and a simpler request that they acknowledge receipt of that information should be sufficient. This allows a speedier acceptance process when an actual decision is unnecessary.
- Outline next step in process for approval or rejections
As part of your communication strategy for the approval process it is important that everyone knows what the next stage of the process is. Having a clearly outlined pathway means that work, whether on a further iteration of a rejected element or moving on with the next part of the work schedule breakdown, can begin immediately, whatever the outcome of the approval process.