Approvals going round in circles

Likely impact

…on you and approval group members

Needless time-wasting is one very obvious effect. And there’s the potential frustration experienced by those involved, which may lead to petty resentments. And the extra time people are having to spend on this work means other activities get less attention, or people have to work longer hours to get through everything.

…on your organisation

Hold ups in the approval process can delay the delivery of communications, or push deadlines to the point that costs may start climbing.

More insidiously, though, is the impact of uncomfortable compromises on the quality of the finished communications. This may be negatively affecting the results those communications produce, in terms of employee attitudes and behaviours. This in turn can have knock on effects on costs, compliance or reputation.

Likely causes

Many people believe it’s often an ‘ego’ thing: that some people feel an almost pathological need to put their stamp on any communication that passes across their desk. It’s almost like they’re marking their territory. And while that may sometimes be the case, it doesn’t really help us to think like this. We need to get our heads around how that plays out in practical terms, and understand what’s going on that we can actually do something about. What’s driving their gut reactions to the copy in front of them?

Unfortunately, it can be messy, as there are two potential issues behind this: content and style. Either of them can be enough to trigger those rewrites – but (and this is the messy bit) they may often be working against each other. One person is unhappy with the content, while someone else is fine with it, but unhappy with how it’s being expressed. So they can end up arguing at cross-purposes, and may even start correcting each other’s corrections.

Separating the arguments

  1. Arguments about the content can always be possible if anyone approving a communication (and who has a right to object to any of the subject matter) hasn’t already signed off the brief.
  2. Arguments about style have two potential sources:
    • Your organisation doesn’t have adequate language standards
    • The people doing the approving are consciously unaware of the processes driving their gut reactions to the words in front of them, or how to manage them appropriately.

Potential solutions

1. To deal with the content issue, chances are you need:

    • An effective briefing process, which not only identifies and validates all the necessary content for every communication, but also ensures it gets signed off by everyone who might be able to move the goalposts later on – before you write a word of the communication itself.
    • a mandate which can ensure you and your team are able to use your briefing process every time.

2. If your issue is a stylistic one, again there are two possible issues you may need to address.

    • You may need to either to improve your organisation’s style guide, or even introduce a set of language standards from scratch
    • You’ll need to educate your clients (and your team) about the unconscious processes which drive potentially damaging gut reactions.

Things to consider for your wish-list

A potential role for training

There are several roles training could play here.

  1. It can teach IC Specialists a series of DFVP:
    • processes for taking IC briefs and for planning campaigns
    • techniques for getting all the information they need to get from their clients, while using those processes.
    • ‘minimum hygiene’ language standards and tools which could be rolled out across the organisation.
  2. It can also teach IC Specialists, clients and approval group members to take conscious control of their gut reactions to what they read. It can even teach them to develop a consensus about how they will manage their reactions.

Beyond training you’ll also need

  1. An agreed, documented approach which all approval groups will then follow.
  2. An agreement to review and refine the approach over time.

Where these solutions could take you

With an effective briefing process that

  • you have the right ensure people follow every time,
  • all the relevant people sign off before you or your team start writing…

…no one should ever have any need to change the content of your drafts (unless business circumstances have changed in the meantime). And with the combination of effective language standards, and an ability to help your clients understand and manage their own gut reactions you can consign this issue to history.

Likely business benefits

…for you

Firstly, you can have justifiable confidence in how you’re doing what you’re doing. You’ll also be helping empower your clients (and not just in their dealings with you) which can help your relationships with them (and do your career a bit of all right too). It can also save you wasted time.

…for your clients and approval group members

They can save themselves wasted time, and get on with other work. And they may even forge better working relationships with one another.

…for your organisation

By speeding up the process, you may reduce the need for rush jobs, and save a few costs here and there. And improving the quality of communications employees receive can only support their performance.