Solutions To Responsibility Without Authority

Since my previous post on what I thought was the worst management strategy on ineffective delegation of responsibility, I have been receiving a lot of private emails asking on what can be done if you do not have the authority on your job, so I decided to just list some of my recommendations, in the hope that it will help all the frustrated souls out there.

The following list is derived from my experience, when you are assigned with responsibilities but not the necessary authority to carry out your work.

1) Just do it! Explain later
Consider the potential results and consequences of your decision, and if it seems justified, just go ahead and do it! I understand that in most organizations we have an approval process to adhere to but when deadlines loom around and you absolutely can’t wait around, this could be the best course of action. Inaction can be the worst thing in business and customer experience.

In most situations, this will turn out pretty alright if you can justify your decisions to the management later. An example I touted in my previous post was me deciding to go ahead with printing costs for marketing brochures without prior approval from upper management, as I knew the materials were definitely needed and we definitely had the budget for it. Besides, I considered the worst case scenario which is for me to best the cost by myself if the expense request was rejected.

Of course, a word of caution is to make sure you bear the responsibilities of your decision. If something goes wrong, don’t blame it on others or the fact that the management did not get back to you in time. You may also appear somewhat as a renegade in an organization which is very process oriented.
2) Take small initiatives and show results
This is a more diplomatic way to pursue the ultimate goal of having full authority. Instead of requesting for full authority right away, discuss with the management to take small steps towards it. It could be something as simple as allowing you to approve expenses below a certain limit or allowing you to make independent decisions within a sub-process.

Do this with defined results and the next logical steps, this will provide comfort to the management that there would be potential results and no harm in trying out something new. This can be particularly effective if you are confident about the end results.

For example, when I first started our marketing efforts in Google Ads, I knew it would definitely increase our business as long as I got the keywords and content right. So, I made sure that I provided a detailed report on the ROI and expenses to be incurred for a monthly spend of $500.00. I told the management that we could try it out, and if we did get results we should double the marketing expense. At first, I had to go on monthly approvals to get the expenses paid, but when the results were positive, it was then placed on our yearly budget with more than 2X the initial spend amount, and I no longer had to ask for any approvals thereafter.

3) Provide an ultimatum to the management on results, not consequences.
Sometimes, the management not be the brightest nor the most understanding and they really need a wake-up call (perhaps they are just too busy with everything else that is going on). If you have done all you can and have provided alternatives to no avail, then provide them an ultimatum on the end results of the inability to make authority.

Remember, that it is the results we want to focus on here, not the consequences (i.e. you’re going to resign, staff is going to resign, etc.). This is because the results are the one that matters to the management, so if you tell them that if things remain as it is and that profits will go down (always catches their attention) or customer satisfaction decreases, I can guarantee you that you will be given your due attention. Just make sure that these results are explained with measurable metrics.

As usual, my personal take on this would be the time when we were starting a team on the NetSuite ERP business and we have secured a large customer. Management did not approve additonal headcount and everyone was drowning in work. I had raised the workload concern several times but the requests were largely ignored, until one day I decided to inform my country manager in our sales meeting that even if I had deals coming in the next few months, I would have to reject them because we would have no people coming in, and that we would definitely fail to meet our sales and profit targets. The next week, I got my approvals for not one but 3 consultants.
The above is definitely not an exhaustive list of what can be done. If you all have other better suggestions and alternatives, feel free to comment below. This will only help others which are in the same situation as you are or which you have experienced in the past but found some way to resolve it.

Solutions To Responsibility Without Authority

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