Individuals in our profession (i.e. Product Managers, Business Analysts, Analysts, or Consultants) have the final authority to make the critical decisions that can impact our projects. That’s why it is so important to learn how to use your skills to influence the decision makers and the people on your team.
I have found that influence has a bit of a bad reputation. I’m not talking about being a stereo typical slimy sales person who can convince someone to make a choice that is not in their best interest. Influence if used well and properly, can help decision makers be aware of the problems, provide choices, and make teams accountable to overall goals of the program. I truly believe that people make good decisions when given the right information and support. It’s our role as analysts to provide that information and support the plan which will make that objective a reality.
Here is a strategy that I’ve used in the past to formalize my thoughts and influence the decision makers on my projects:
- Define the problem statement:
It’s important to gather all the information that you can about the problem at hand. Who, What, Why, When and How types of information should be gathered and organized. Filter that information for the key elements. It’s always a good idea to provide also provide a few clear options for the solution.
- Prepare the Case:
Consider the audience. Should this be a formal presentation, or a simple informal conversation? It is also important to provide the information in a consumable format. Consider your audience. If you are talking to busy executives or a large group of peers the method of delivery might vary immensely.
- Deliver the message:
Be direct but respectful in your thoughts and language. I have found that the more you are able to be passionate about your issues, the more it energizes the people around you to make decisions. Be careful to not come across as demanding. Remember you are trying to engage your audience to see your perspective. Try to use open ended questions which help the audience to consume and process the information and think the issues through.
As soon as possible, obtain a decision. While the benefits of your case are still active in the audience’s mind try to reach a commitment as soon as possible.
Commitment is only half of the answer. You’ll need a plan to reach the final objective. Work immediately while ideas are still fresh to identify key owners and assign responsibilities and deadlines. You’ll need a method for tracking and communicating progress for all involved parties.
Hopefully these steps will help you to get the decisions made that you need, and increase your influence with your audience.