1. Use a repeatable approval process. Yeah, I know this is basic. If your company already has one, great! There is nothing more frustrating than getting to what you thought was the end of your approvals and realizing you need to go to another approver or add another document and go through the entire cycle again. Lay out the process before you start, notify those involved, and draw out the steps graphically without acronyms or abbreviations.
2. Know the watchdogs, and sell them first. Approval processes most often include two types of people: executives/managers and the people they rely on to act as watchdogs and filter the information being used for the decision. Usually you will know who the watchdogs are because they are operations people who will contact you for more information and religiously inspect your work. If you keep them involved as much as possible from the beginning,your approvals will be smoother and more expedient.
3. Leverage your first approvers. E-mail, call, or IM your outstanding approvers for a given document, project, budget, or phase as groups of people sign off. It helps build urgency and consensus. It sounds crude, but people like to be part of the crowd.
4. Keep the ball in their court. If you keep getting "pushback" or questions/objections, never let them sit in your inbox. Shoot back the answers quickly, pull in help if needed, and follow up.
5. Go for a double play. Get two related approvers to agree to sign together. It's more comfortable for both of them that way.
Brandon Henak graduated from Marquette University with degrees in information technology and supply chain management. He is currently working in a rotational leadership program. At Newly Corporate, Henak blogs his experiences and gives advice on everything from generation Y career development to networking and happy-hour etiquette.