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How to Streamline Your Approval Process

For many businesses, the approval process can be an inefficient, costly and frustrating bureaucratic nightmare. There are even stories of one small piece of website text being distributed to 100 different people before being given the green light. This needn’t be the case.

Successful businesses have a streamlined process which operates smoothly and quickly, eliminating excess time wasted in transit. Below we outline simple ways to speed up your approval process.

Rename the Process

Calling it ‘approval’ gives the reviewers the impression that their job is to give consent. It’s not. What they should be doing is offering help through constructive feedback. Calling it a ‘review’ puts the emphasis on their role. It’ll make them think more about the work and how they can actively improve it, rather than just sending it back to be done again and wasting more time.

Be clear about what each reviewer’s role is. Ensure they understand that they are in charge of particular duties, like fact checking, grammar or style. This way, they’ll always be adding their knowledge to the process and the process becomes more of a team effort.

Define Accountability and Set Deadlines

Assign a team member to be in charge of ‘workflow management’. It’s their role to ensure that the process is running as smoothly as possible. They are the driver of efficiency and therefore should always be looking for ways the process can be improved.

Deadlines give the process structure. If a reviewer knows that a document needs to be approved before a certain time, they’re much more likely to do it early. Setting strict but realistic targets will speed up the process and give the creators time to implement feedback.

Standardise and Remove Unnecessary Layers

Create a standardised method for approval. This could be by utilising various software technologies which make the process clear and transparent. This will also allow files to be read and annotated in real-time before being sent on. It will minimise risk, increase speed to the market, and improve quality.

Obviously, the more people approving a piece of work, the greater drain on the business’ time. Cut additional layers and ensure the team clearly understands the procedure. For instance, if lawyers aren’t required to read text before it’s sent to the creative director, then cut them out until they’re actually needed.

Maintain Speed

Sometimes there can be too many documents that need reviewing, and so a bottleneck forms and productivity ceases. Your workflow management expert should be on top of this, but if they miss it, ensure this is brought to their attention.

Establish a parallel path method for when this happens by having other reviewers ready if they’re needed. This can be managed through the better software programs and it’ll save you a lot of time.

And only finished products should be sent away for approval. For example, if you’re working on web page copy that doesn’t yet have web design, don’t send the full page for approval. Send just the text. It’ll help the reviewer focus on the important part of the document, rather than what isn’t there.

Approval processes are a source of unnecessary friction in the workplace. Implement the tips mentioned here and you’ll soon have a far more productive business with a more collaborative team.


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Neil Parker
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