Perhaps this has happened to you:
You wait nervously in the conference room for the executive so you can present your new product idea. Twelve minutes late to the 30 minute meeting the executive vice president of marketing and vice president of product development rush into the room and hastily sit down amid profuse apologies for being late due to a crisis with the companies biggest customer.
You notice the slides you sent have not been looked at since there are no turn folds near the staple. You launch into a hurried presentation. You notice both VPs are looking back and forth between the pages on the table and your presentation on the screen – scribbling notes and underlining words. You finish with 3 minutes to spare thinking you nailed it. They ask a few superficial questions, point out a couple of minor issues and send you back to rework the idea as they rush out of the room, late to their next meeting.
The executives were not ready to make a decision. It didn’t matter if the presentation went great or not. They looked interested but what they were doing was finding a way out of making a decision. They were not prepared to commit to a course of action under those circumstances. If you value the work you do then you must follow some basic Decision Ready Safety Tips to make sure your decision makers are “Decision Ready.”
Safety Tip # 1 – Never go into a decision meeting to get a decision.
If the decision makers have not already decided then cancel the meeting, run to the bathroom, duck out the window, fake a heart attack – you may as well, you’re dead anyway. Seriously, if they are not ready do not ask for a decision, the only answer can be “no” or a delay. Change the nature of the meeting to just an informal discussion or an information meeting. Do not press for a decision. Even if the decision goes your way it will be a weak decision – easily discounted by other people that you may need to support your idea.
Safety Tip #2 – Do not assume the decision maker can read.
Take time to meet with the decision makers before the meeting to ensure they are well informed and that you have a chance to respond to any questions or concerns they might have. What if you can’t get time with them before the decision meeting? Meet with their minions and present the material to them – again carefully inform them and respond to their concerns. In the presentation you can say you talked with their people and responded to their concerns. This gives you great credibility.
Safety Tip #3 – Do not assume the decision is actually made.
Hallway vetoes happen all the time. Just because an executive says the words, “it’s approved” does not mean the resources and support becomes available. Decisions are regularly made without allocating resources. You must follow up with written and verbal statements and restatements informing all the affected parties of the decision and you must secure resource commitments from the various parties involved while the decision is fresh in the minds of everyone.