Influencing Executives

Preparing Your Idea

The first real step in preparing a proposal with a greater chance of success is finding a subject you’re passionate about. Even if you present all the data to support your idea, your lack of passion for the subject will give you the disadvantage when asking an executive to take a risk on you and your idea. Once you have that, you need to ensure you’re not duplicating effort occurring elsewhere in the industry or within your own company. Once you’re in the clear on that you must refine your idea to make it crisp.

Executives take risks on people, make it count. Having clearly and concisely articulated your vision, the same must be done for the ROI associated with implementing your vision. Often ideas undertaking major changes are not specifically actionable (or at least cannot be easily explained and understood in 30 seconds), so they must be decomposed. In doing so the constraints of organization budget become less of a factor—individual actionable items can be accomplished in various stages to accomplish the larger vision. Additionally, if you’ve clearly explained the value of your vision, it is understood by the sponsor, and it is the right thing for the company to do, there is a greater chance you will get funding.

Making the Pitch

At this point you should be well prepared for your meeting. Ensure you can clearly articulate your vision in less than 30 seconds (elevator pitch) and remember to bring the passion. Data is optional, passion is not. It also good to note the clear separate between what you like to have and what is needed to be successful.

If in the event your sponsor does not approve your proposal, don’t give up. In the meeting debrief, consider the following questions:

  • Is the vision clear?
  • Is this really the right thing for the company?
  • Has the distinction between what you would like and what you need been clearly made?
  • Is there history of you not delivering results?
  • Is the scope granular enough so it can be accomplished?

Don’t give up. Iterate on your idea and your materials and try again. If your vision is clear and sufficient ROI present, your chances of getting approval are high.

Reporting Status and Delivering Results

Once you have funding it is now important that you deliver regular status updates and deliver. You may find that your executive sponsor wishes to be involved in your project—indulge them. Let them feel your passion and excitement by being involved. However in any circumstance, ensure that when you deliver your status that it is done so clearly and often, typically being less than 1/2 page. It is also important that mistakes made during your project are surfaced quickly and that responsibility and remediation is clearly evident. Surfacing mistakes made can potentially save large amounts of time, effort, and money to other team members or organizations within your company and will be appreciated by your sponsor.

It is also important to think of your project plan, and its artifacts, as results delivered for a “blue chip” company, even if yours is not. Blue chip results are based out of lean project plans, where results are consistent, of high quality, and are widely accepted. Much like companies of the same name, projects executed in this manner can weather changes in economic conditions and build reputations of stability and reliability.

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