As a leader of a small project I prepared a business case for financial approval. It got reviewed once by the approving manager, say Alice, and it was found kind of OK, just sent back for rework with minor comments, requesting more info. Reworking the business case took a while, and it made it quite a bit more complicated.

Then we had our follow up meeting, in which Alice introduced Betty, who was to take over her role in reviewing business cases. We started over to explain what we did in the previous session. We touched on the additional complexity briefly. The business case was again sent back to rework with minor comments, requesting more info again.

In the next meeting it was only Betty, who got introduced as an experienced senior manager, and me. We could not review anything. Betty started explaining how much work she had, how little time she had. When I saw we would not get anywhere, I made a shared document declaring what parts of the business case she would be reviewing. I got her commitment that she would be reviewing it in a week.

The one week was about to pass. Nothing. So I mailed her politely if I should plan to attend her reviewing session. She replied she was busy, and that she would do the review soon.

Two days passed, so I came to Betty's desk, and said hello. She got rather aggressive in no time, saying I was pushing, and that she had other priorities. Then I told her that I came to say that if she was too busy, she could drop half of the review, and concentrate on the important. I also confirmed that the approval is blocking my project. She looked settled then, and she told me that she will review it soon.

Next time we had meeting with Alice, and Betty. We reached the bottom line that it was not their task to review anything too complicated. They just needed some small part of the calculations. Betty then started blaming me that I was not giving her easy enough access to the document (need searching). I took a note of her suggestion how she wanted it, and told her I was going to change it according to her wishes. Then Betty continued more aggressively telling me that "this is a general issue, how do you think you get your business case reviewed if you did not get all the data she needed as easy to process as possible"

How would you react?

How would you handle the whole situation?

  • 1
    Personally, I would start doing what she wanted and also CC in Alice or her Bettys Boss once her promised deadline has passed. Just with a polite, hey where the heck is the review results.
    – Shadowzee
    Jan 30 '19 at 1:23

It sounds like Betty is frustrated because Alice asked for a few additional clarifications, and then seemingly out of nowhere the whole document was reworked to make it more complicated.

if you have to re-submit a document for approval as a direct result of such comments, make it really clear where those comments are addressed so the whole document doesn't need to be read again. If I'm sending a document back for re-approval off the back of a few comments, I'll put notes in the email as to where all those points are solved. Eg:

  • The surplus listed is very high; this needs amendment and/or clarification. The surplus has been reduced and a paragraph added (section 1.3.1) clarifying the intended use of this surplus.
  • Why is the costing for supplier x in GBP? Even accounting for exchange rate fluctuations and import duties, this was significantly cheaper than other comparable US based supplies. Section 4.5.7 has been added to clarify.

...and so on. Make the reviewers job easy, and they'll just get it done then and there. If you rewrite the whole document and expect them to re-read it all again just in the vague hope you may have changed half of what they asked for, they'll understandably be annoyed.

As a secondary point, I'd make a point of not chasing more than once. Send a friendly reminder once the deadline has passed, and if you still hear nothing then escalate to your manager:

Hi Kate, just to let you know there's still no word on the business plan approval from Betty. I have chased on the 20th, but haven't received anything back. Could you step in? Thanks!

You've then made your manager aware of the situation to show you're not at fault, and in most cases in my experience, they'll likely chase on your behalf.

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