“We’re almost done, we’re just waiting on feedback from …”
Does this sound familiar? Progress is humming along smoothly when suddenly, everything comes to a halt because leadership needs to weigh in. And it’s not that leadership’s input isn’t valuable — it’s actually so valuable that everyone demands their attention.
Leadership is busy. When it comes time to get their input on a project, they often either lack enough previous knowledge to weigh in (without multiple hold-up questions) or take too long to complete their action step.
This delays the project’s end date and can be incredibly frustrating for the team members who are involved in the project. They feel like they’re in a holding pattern and worse yet, may have to go back and make aggressive changes quickly when leadership finally weighs in.
The best way to prevent such a situation is to keep leadership informed from the beginning. It begins with creating a project brief where everyone is aligned. This is a tool that structures the work and can be used to push back on leadership if they start to make requests beyond the initial scope. Then, it requires consistent information sharing, which will prevent back-tracking or confusion.
The question remains: how can you provide that level of insight without slowing everything down?
These five simple ideas do the trick of keeping leadership informed, without stalling progress.
1. Host a Stand Up
During a project cycle, include a five minute daily “stand up” meeting. Have everyone (remote or not) stand during the meeting so it ensures a quick and to-the-point discussion. The stand up should include updates on project progress and roadblocks, and avoid lengthy problem solving discussions. Information is summarized and shared, and if there’s a reason to dive deeper into an issue, you find time to meet later to collaborate.
Make sure to add the key stakeholders and leadership to these meetings. Why? The benefit of the format to them is two-fold. First, as busy as they are, they should be able to spare five minutes at least a few times a week (especially if the project is top priority). Second, since the format is daily, they can skip several meetings a week without losing too much information.
2. Create Chat Channels
Many teams already use chat tools, such as Slack, to stay connected and stay social throughout the day. Create a chat channel for your project and invite the project team and leadership to join. Leadership can mute the channel so that they aren’t updated on every chat, and only receive notifications once they are @mentioned.
This method provides a digital logbook of what’s been going on, so leadership can read back through updates on their own time or just wait for a direct chat. It’s a particularly useful tool when it integrates with your project management software.
3. Workflow Visualizations
Many project management softwares offer workflow visualization tools such as Kanban or Scrum boards. These tools take on the look and feel of a wall of sticky notes, but with the intelligence of digital design — they’re highly shareable, even across remote teams.
What makes them a great tool for looping in leadership is the visualization component. The human brain processes images 60,000 times faster than it does text. Executives with access to your PM software can login, take a quick glance at your boards, and get the information they need faster than they would through an emailed or in-person update.
4. Use Automation
Zapier and IFTTT are automation tools that allow users to create formulas that automate actions between different apps — for example, you can automate posting from a RSS feed to social media accounts or turn emails into tasks in your PM software.
Check out what integrations are offered between your PM software and the tools your leadership uses everyday. This way, leadership doesn’t have to switch between tools to access the project. You could send their tasks to their preferred task management list or directly to their calendars (where you know their assistant will help ensure they see it).
5. Designate a Liaison
Whether or not you have someone on staff with “project manager” in their title, it’s essential that every project has a liaison between the project team and leadership. This individual should filter information back and forth so that no one gets bogged down on irrelevant details.
From project team to leadership, the liaison can take the updates that leadership needs to know, and present them in a one-on-one meeting or email. Then from leadership to the project team, the liaison can consolidate feedback and remove unnecessary chatter.
Most of all, the liaison can push back — if leadership is requesting a drastic change to scope, timeline, creative, etc. It’s the liaison’s job to reference back to the project brief and advocate for the project team.
According to research from the University of Ottawa, 33% of projects fail because of lack of input from upper management. Leadership has a unique value-add to projects because of their ability to see the whole picture as it relates to different departments, budgets, and overall strategy.
But their time is highly sought after, making it just as dangerous to a project’s timeline to include them as it is to a project’s outcome to exclude them. The happy median lies in building processes that both keep leadership informed and progress moving. When you accomplish that, you set your team and your project up for success.
Taylor Burke is a contributor for TechnologyAdvice.com, covering marketing and communications. When she’s not in front of her screen, you can find Taylor reading, cooking, running, or hanging with her dog—but rarely all four at once. Connect with her on LinkedIn.