Monday, March 10, 2008

Pushing Decision Making Down

By Jon:

One of the recent slogans running through our management lately has been "Push Decision Making Down." This is a simple concept: stop relying on our managers and executives to approve decisions and make choices that lower level employees could make just as easily.

Sounds great, right? It's the dream -- a corporation that trusts it's mid-level and low-level employees and allows their decision making to flow with day-to-day business needs. Sounds like a fast, smart, lean business at it's finest.

Some of you may have this policy at your organization as well, and I'm honestly curious as to how well it's working. Last week, our CFO, CMO and President of Sales and Marketing decided to organize a weekly one hour meeting to approve all promotions and sales our marketing team pushes through.

That's right - every idea our marketing team has, every sale, every promotions push, everything has to have the stamp of approval of the top executives in the company. Considering this meeting is held weekly, it's already put a strain on our marketing team; instead of brainstorming with their team and working with our accounts directly, there's a week delay while we have to wait for the execs to sign off on the plan.

I could go on about this policy paradox for days; however, I'll try to channel this frustration into something positive. Instead, let's talk about ways to get a boss to say 'yes' to your ideas. Here's some tips to bring to the table in your weekly executive approval meetings:
  • Plan out the problems. What could go wrong? Your supervisor's likely to poke holes in every idea, so having something to dam those up is key. Think up the most obvious things and address those in your initial pitch, so you won't have to answer unnecessary questions later.
  • Start at the end. Tell your boss what action is needed first and if explanation is needed, fill them in on the details. Basically, start with a what and a when, and follow with a why and a how if need be. Often that's all that's needed to get the job done.
  • What's the benefit? Plan out some simple numbers -- CFOs are generally into that sort of thing. How much exposure, how many eyeballs will see it, and how much income it will generate; stats can be key when reaching for something big.
  • Get in and get out. Brevity is key. There are many circumstances where you'll have them sold on your idea, but right at the end you lay all your cards down and your hopes are dashed. Certainly explain the risks and costs, but leave it brief and as sunny as possible.
  • Talk over their head. This is my personal favorite. My job is sort-of technical, and my boss is not. This leads to a lot of great opportunities to speak geek and confuse. If I can point out some options that befuddle the management, and I say them with certainty, it's likely I'll just get a yes.

Hopefully with these tips you can talk your way in and out of an executive approval meeting (if your company even has those). That, or just getting your boss to sign off on your business expenses.

For more great tips and insight on the "yes" word from the mouth of an executive, check out Michael Hyatt's great blog post on Manager Approval:

How to Get Your Boss’s Approval When You Need It


James said...

Dude, that's totally the story at my company... it's crazy, I have to get everything single thing I do approved and it's like, what, didn't you hire me to make decisions like this?

Greg said...

"Talk over their head" - nice, I love that.