There's a red-hot project your team is dying to get under way, but you've got to win the backing of the top brass and persuade your financial director to commit the funding. Treasury is keeping a tight rein on budgets, and others are competing for a slice of the cake. How do you prevail?
Lay the groundwork. Before you put in your bid, you need to achieve as wide a consensus in your favour as possible, says David Young, head of organisational development and design at human capital management company Penna. 'Start off by doing a stakeholder analysis to identify the key supporters and the key blockers. One way to get people on board is to use simple psychology by encouraging them to devise the strategy along with you so they have some ownership.' Even those who are not close to the issue are worth enlisting to the cause: you can never predict how influence will percolate around an organisation.
Pitch it for the audience. When presenting to key decisionmakers, ensure your message will be well received. 'At one multinational, strategic proposals have to be on a one-pager,' points out business psychologist Damien Anciano of YSC. 'Some finance directors will like to see a lot of numbers, others may be receptive to a more intuitive approach.' If cutting costs is the main route to winning company brownie points, pitch your proposal in terms of the savings it will achieve.
Be transparent. Your chances of success will be increased by spelling out what benefits will accrue from the level of resource allocated. 'It's a good idea to present three scenarios,' says Young. 'The first might be a low-cost option, the second middle-range, and the third more comprehensive. Start with the base case and then everything else can be analysed in terms of cost benefit. If you don't get the go-ahead, the consequences should also be transparent.'
Focus on business benefits. If people believe you're motivated by benefits to the organisation, they're more likely to support you, says Anciano. 'It's important for the added value you identify to resonate with what the organisation is trying to achieve.'
Keep it internal. Don't start wheeling in customers or management consultants to lobby on your behalf. Your financial director will resent having a gun put to his head, and consultants wound up to espouse your case will lose credibility with top management. Report their feedback yourself.
Don't make it personal. Once you start undermining your rivals' bids for resources or casting the decision in terms of loyalty, you are politicking and your campaign becomes destructive to the corporate body. And if you threaten to resign unless your bid is granted, you might just have to.
Do say: 'In the following proposal, we have looked at outcomes that would result from varying levels of funding, analysing the benefits for different departments and for the business as a whole.'
Don't say: 'Give me what I'm asking for or you'll regret it.'