Unless we are the organization’s top dog, we need to persuade others to embrace and, more importantly, execute our ideas. But, with competing priorities and the boss’ busy schedule, how do we do that? I call it “make it easy for them to say yes.”

Recognizing the need: How many times have you sat through a meeting when someone presented a creative idea or solution that everyone thought was great and could work. The big boss liked it too, gave her go-ahead, and then nothing happened? Likely, it’s occurred more than once, and, unhappily it may have occurred to you.

What went wrong? In almost every case I’ve witnessed, this happens because the execution of the idea relies upon someone else to get it done, and that person or persons were not asked, or if asked, hadn’t committed to executing.

Moral of this story: When the boss says go, be ready to execute!

The how-to’s: 

  1. Think through the project, from “soup to nuts”
  • Identify each step that needs to be taken to reach the goal/achieve the end result.
  • Determine what resources will be needed. Consider personnel, equipment, time and budget.
  • Pinpoint who in the organization would be best to complete each step? Consult with her or him to check for availability? Does that person need the sign-off from someone else? If so, secure that approval. Has the person to perform the task agreed?
  1. Secure the commitments
  • Make sure the budget is there
  • Ensure commitments from all persons you need including the time to get it done (does the boss need to remove something from the person’s plate)?
  1. Life happens: develop a Plan B
  • Develop an alternative plan to ensure the plan can succeed
  • Identify, and get commitments from others who could pinch hit, if needed

A case study

Approximately 30% of a large manufacturing firm is composed of baby boomers who have started to retire, and all will be gone in three to five years. A cross-functional team of in-house executives developed a plan to train newly hired employees and those to be hired by creating a series of YouTube videos featuring incumbent employees in one-of-a-kind jobs. Great idea!

The PowerPoint presentation to the CEO and his senior staff identified the issue —  the potential loss of many employees in one-of-a-kind jobs and the need to have trained replacements in place — and the relatively minor cost associated with the YouTube solution. The CEO and his senior team thought the solution was innovative and would be great and said “yes.”

Although a great idea, with enthusiastic support from the CEO, nothing happened: No one on the team was capable of creating the videos, nor did anyone work in the company’s library. Last, no one on the team had budgetary control.

What went wrong? 

  1. The necessary parties were consulted; however, no commitments were made.
  2. The team neglected to ask for budget to get the job done.
  3. No person or function was assigned to determine which jobs were most at risk of knowledge loss through the retirements.

A different outcome

To meet the demands of a rapidly growing town, a builder was faced with having to increase her company by 50%, or from 200 to 300 employees. To meet the challenge, the CEO asked the HR department to present a plan to increase the company’s workforce.

The results, which made it easy for them to say yes:

  1. HR considered three alternatives: 1. increasing its department (from three to five) to handle the recruitment, hiring and onboarding; 2. using an outside hiring agency; 3. retaining a consulting firm to provide in-house assistance.
  2. The department considered costs associated with each option, the reality that internal resources would be required regardless of the option selected, and consulted with the construction and property departments, which would be most affected by the rapid growth. Both departments worked with HR and also made the necessary commitments in staff and budget to make any selection successful.
  3. At the end of the process, the team determined — collaboratively — that hiring two additional regular, full-time HR employees would allow the company to best achieve its overall goals of increasing the workforce to remain the leader in the competitive construction business in the town.
  4. After analyzing the cost of the three alternatives, this option was also the least costly.
  5. Bingo – approved and done!

Tips for making it easy for them to say yes:

  • Recognize that the decision-makers are busy people with multiple projects in front of them
  • Anticipate all of the steps that need to be taken to ensure success and plan for them
  • Be clear, concise and thorough. As it is oft-said: “Be brief, be brilliant, be gone”
  • Assume responsibility for execution

Diana Peterson-More, employment lawyer, corporate officer and consultant left a Fortune 200 to launch Organizational Effectiveness Group LLC. Her company focuses on aligning people with organizational purpose and strategy. She is the best-selling author of “Consequential Communication in Turbulent Times” and is a sought-after coach, facilitator and speaker.

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