Hands-​off approval is your way forward

Hands-​off approval” sounds like something that isn’t really governing what you publish. Yes, sounds like. The system is also a godsend for law firms with sticky roadblocks or difficult workflow. It also helps all other companies where decision-​makers are busy, and for whom content isn’t that important.

Approval processes are traditionally painful

The process of approving anything, in any organisation, is traditionally a painful topic. Mention approval with your observation-​eyes on, and you’ll notice winces, pained expressions, rolled eyes, hilarious grins, and general indications of skepticism.

The notion of an ‘approval process’ feels painful for a couple of reasons.

The first is that it smells like bureaucracy. This is especially the case if you’ve ever worked in a large firm. Getting approval for things means lots of paperwork, sweet talk, jumping over things, and going through gates.

The second is that, when you have a busy, domineering, or pedantic decision-​maker, you can kiss your time-​imperative item or decision goodbye. Your request will fall to the bottom of the inbox (being not urgent); it may be inadvertently ignored because it’s not seen as being important; or it might just take a really long time for a decision-​maker to decide that it is correct.

Smooth workflow relies on smooth approval

As much as we don’t like to admit it, it is a truth that smooth workflow relies on efficient and effective approval process. How do you get to the stage where this is actually a thing?

Here is a method that works:

  1. Make sure that the approver understands what is expected
  2. Make sure that the person seeking approval understands what he or she is expected to do
  3. Gain agreement on points 1 & 2
  4. Develop a guide or checklist for the approver to reference.

In the situation where you are creating content of any kind, understanding what is expected of each other is essential. But so, too, is giving the busy approver a simple way of dealing with things that need approval.

Hands-​off approval might be your way forward

Brutal Pixie has implemented hands-​off approval systems in businesses ranging from law firms with difficult workflow roadblocks, to co-​working spaces where time is of the essence because of tiny teams. They have been successful in all cases.

So, how does it work?

This works best if you use something simple like WordPress, or can modify your CMS to allow you to do what you need to do. Here’s how it works:

  1. Install EditFlow and define your user roles
  2. Agree on timeframes for creation and publishing; for example, a post might be created but scheduled to publish itself in four days’ time.
  3. Content creators develop content to as complete a stage as possible, and save it as a draft.
  4. Creator selects the approver, leaves an editorial comment advising that the piece is complete and scheduled to go live on X date, then schedules the article for the agreed timeframe.
  5. Approver receives an email with the comment and a link to the article, and is invited to respond or let it go.

Did you see those last four words? Or let it go?

Hands-​off approval is hands-​off because you have (a) an agreed timeframe for intervention, if intervention is required; and (b) all responsibility for approval now sits with the decision-​maker. The decision maker can make changes, leave a comment, and just hit update — and the job is done. All required people will be notified, and nobody needs to go through another stage of work.

Hands-​off approval systems work because you agree on the principles first

It is not a matter of reading and editing an article, discussing an article, or otherwise spending a lot of time to get the content done before it is put into a system, and then reviewed again. No, that’s the absolute height of inefficiency.

What you have is agreement that the content creator has particular expectations, and the approver has particular expectations. If the creator does the right thing, and the approver does not step up, that is not the content creator’s fault.

Hands-​off approval pushes responsibility back to where it best sits, and allows you to create a system that works for your firm, and your decision-​makers. It stops seniors from taking time out of their work to write material on which they place lower importance; it stops meetings; it gives everyone an equal share of the responsibility, by doing it collaboratively.

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