The approval and decision points on improvement projects (probably all projects) are always problematic. I have seen it happen again and again and again. A change manager will allocate a time on the plan for an approval and it does not happen at that time and there might be quite a delay before it does happen. By the nature of the plan this delay immediately impacts on the critical path.
Approval points or decision points need managing like every other activity on the project. Here are some tips:
1. Do not plan approval points in isolation. Leaders make decisions so allow them to give feedback and change things.
2. Structure decisions in to decision process so that recommendations and decisions can be made in stages. You might think that this will cost you time but nothing is worse than writing a fixed set of recommendations in a report, dropping it on a group of leaders and then watching them pull it apart. By using a process you will build understanding and commitment.
3. Ask the decision makers in advance how they would like to make the decision. Learn from what works and what does not so you get a better process each time.
4. If the decision is a group decision, get the relevant people together and facilitate a workshop so they make the decision as a group.
5. Assume that the decision makers will want to understand the data, background and the recommendations. Take time to explain them.
6. If you use a written report, assume that there will be at least 2 iterations before approval is given – one to agree the big picture, one to agree the detail and only then is it wise to go for approval.
7. Be clear about the timing. Be careful as well. If you give a date for approval that is the date the decision maker will aim to give feedback and there could be a lot of work to follow.
When you plan your decision points on your improvement project, do not treat them as a chore but as a critical opportunity to get the right outcome for the organisation. If worked correctly, a decision point can add as much value as the analysis and design stages.