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I work in the federal government. I was assigned as a team lead. My first initiative, eight months ago, was to establish a process management plan. There is still no approval from management to release the plan to all parties in the process. How can I encourage approval and importance on this initiative?

Your situation is not uncommon, but the reasons for it can vary greatly. The first step, like any Lean initiative, is to determine the root cause of the problem. When the cause is understood, it is much easier to determine the best way to tackle the situation. So, first, have you tried the direct approach by simply asking the key sponsor or manager what the barriers are to adoption or approval? Follow that up with asking how you can help clear the barriers. Determine what data and information the manager needs to gain buy-in from the other stakeholders. Then, of course, provide it.

If that conversation reveals that there are adoption or buy-in issues from other stakeholders, apply some common Lean Six Sigma tools and techniques, such as a Stakeholder Analysis, where you determine how supportive – or not—each stakeholder is. Once that is understood, you can:

  • Determine influence
  • Determine communication strategies, especially for those who may be unsupportive or ambivalent
  • Make sure the effort is clearly tied to the priorities of the organization
  • Be ready to explain specifically how this approach will benefit leadership

If the sheer enormity of the change has people stuck, make sure you get a plan that follows key change management principles such as:

  • Ensuring there’s a shared vision
  • Providing the needed resources
  • Making sure people have adequate training in the new system
  • Ensuring there are appropriate incentives
  • Developing an appropriate and visible action plan to implement the change

Without seeing the plan and its contents and not knowing the entire context of the situation, this answer may miss the mark. We are happy to expand on this answer if there are other details that can be shared. Several questions come to mind, such as:

  1. What drove the organization to develop it?
  2. What is the approval process?
  3. Has leadership changed?
  4. How does this initiative fit with the organization’s strategic direction?
  5. What steps have been taken so far to get the necessary approval?

Carol Knight-Wallace

For more than 25 years, Carol Knight-Wallace has been helping organizations in the public and private sectors achieve excellence through Lean Six Sigma application, project management, strategic planning, and facilitation. Her experience includes Fortune 100 financial services companies, healthcare, manufacturing, government, non-profit, and higher education.