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My work has a number of bureaucracy. For a request, a number of approvals must be made, and after approval, my request will go to different teams for implementation. All those approvals and implementation by each team is sequential, meaning that if there is a bottleneck at some point, it will delay the subsequent process. Even for one request, it can take more than one months to do it. After all teams are done with their implementation, I will start doing my part of work.

I'm looking for advice on how to improve this situation to be more efficient. I've been asking the person that is handling the task like a few days after they are assigned (i.e. if 2nd team is assigned, then I will ask regarding the progress a few days after 1st team has completed the work). I'm not sure whether they will find me naggy or something, but I really need to get the job done before the deadlines, and I don't want my work to miss the deadline just because of these kind of bureaucracies.

When being asked, some of them they just say that they are busy with their work and can only get back to me like the week after. But here is the problem, if 1st team is busy on the first week and hence can complete on the 2nd week, and the 2nd team is busy on the second week and hence can complete on the 3rd week, then it's very difficult for me to finish it as soon as possible.

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    Document when you get the requirements and when you deliver. Show the proof of your efficiency if someone asks. About making the process more efficient it's the job of manager or more specifically operations manager. – Prison Mike May 17 at 9:24
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    You, my friend, is in need of a tracking system. No one can and should try to manage work assignments getting done from different interconnected teams via means of individual / manual follow up. – Sourav Ghosh May 17 at 9:25
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This sounds like a systematic problem in the way you company is run. You have a huge chain of events that all have to complete before you even get the work, and any single hold up anywhere in that chain is going to mean that it's late, perhaps catastrophically so. You can hassle people all you want, but when there's this many opportunities for a project to slip it invariably will at some point on the line.

Unless you have the power to alter that bureaucracy (it sounds like you don't from the question), then you need to focus on managing expectations instead. So when you're given a task with a deadline, then I'd say something like:

Sure, I'll fire that off to the relevant teams today so they can start the process. However, I have to warn you that in my experience there's often a delay with (x or y team), so it's possible we won't be able to meet that deadline. I can meet it no problem so long as they get it back to me by (date), but if it's after that I'm afraid that deadline is very likely to slip.

You've then made them aware of the situation, shown that you can uphold timescales from your end, and given a firm date you need to have the work back by if you are to meet that deadline.

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    I'd maybe rephrase it to "delay in process X or Y", instead of pointing fingers at the teams responsible. I've witnessed this kind of thing generating some problems before. Just some nitpicking on my part. – undefined May 17 at 10:45
  • @GustavoMP Yup, good point, best to avoid pointing fingers. – berry120 May 17 at 10:49
  • And make sure you have a list of things to chase (if it's not a list of workflow tickets), and get regular, frequent updates on them. In response to "Why haven't you progressed X?", you need to be able to say when you last chased, what response, and who you spoke to. – Justin May 17 at 11:23
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One of the things you can do is to keep a tab with "current ETA".

When you finish it and send it to team A, it should contain: "Current ETA", "Deadline" and a tracker with ETA changes where you can add a comment for the change. Something like "Team A received on 17/05/2019, expected response on 19/05/2019, actual response 21/05/2019, adding 2 days to ETA".

If you continue with this and send it to the teams with a disclaimer that current ETA is subject to the team getting back to you within 48h,72h of whatever you choose.

The reality is what you are doing would be the job for a project manager, therefore, if that isn't your job then don't worry about it. Do what you can do and keep records of it which is what matters.

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Improving your company's processes is "above your pay grade": you probably do not have the authority to do it on your own. Even if you did have the authority, that kind of change would require a lot of time, persuasion, and hard work,

For your everyday work, others have made good suggestions.

  • Ask the teams who must do the work for you, "When can I expect you to complete this work?" And, ask them, "When may I follow up with you so you can tell me how it's going?" In other words, ask them to give you realistic expectations of when they will do their work.
  • Have realistic expectations of when your own projects can be completed.
  • Carefully communicate those expectations to whoever sets your deadlines.
  • Put your expectations, for others' work and your own, on a calendar.
  • Politely follow up at the agreed time. "I'm following up on (whatever), the task you agreed to do on (whatever date). You said you would finish on (finish date). Can I still expect that to happen?

It's all about communication, and knowing what's going on. The more you know about each job's progress, the better expectations you can set.

And, keep these things in mind:

  • A deadline of "As soon as possible" is meaningless. Be specific.
  • Only ask people to do rush jobs when it's absolutely necessary. Be prepared to explain exactly why it's a rush job. "Our customer XYZ has a deadline of (whatever) to get this project from us, so they can be ready for (something)." You may have to explain this repeatedly.

Now, this process presents a good opportunity for improvement. If you know an executive who's interested in improving things, you can ask for some time and have a conversation about it. "I'd like to be part of making this better. Do you have any suggestions for me?" But if you're going to try guerilla process improvement, be careful! You may stomp on some toes.

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