Approval and finalizing organization documents

by John Bandler

Organizations need to create governance documents and there needs to be a process to create them, update them, and approve them. Here we talk about approval, and then what happens after approval (finalizing the document).

I discuss this in more depth in my book on Policies and Procedures.

Gain consensus from the approver in advance

Sometimes this is easier said than done, but try to gain consensus from the approver well in advance and as the project progresses.

It is not efficient to put hours and weeks and months of work into a project only to have the approver make massive changes at the last minute and where the project team is unsure of the reasoning of the last-minute changes. Those massive changes should have been discussed and worked through earlier in the project process.

Approvers are busy leaders in an organization. As such their time is valuable. That said, they are also responsible for leading others and ensuring others use their time valuably. Thus approvers should be involved in the project throughout, to an appropriate degree.

Submitting for approval

Submit the documents for approval. Depending on the organization and project this submission may be minimal or it may include extensive backup documentation and references.

At a minimum, the approval submission should include:

  • Proposed document in "near final draft" version with reduced clutter
  • If it is an update, indications of what changes are being sought (e.g. redlined version)
  • Proper version control information in the filename and document itself
    • Date of draft, clear indication this is a draft, etc.
  • Brief summary, including reminders on goals, etc.
  • Invitation for questions and discussion, offer to provide more detailed information

Additional inclusions could be:

  • Memo
  • Presentation

Never call this a "final" or "final draft". You do not know if this will be approved or whether more drafts will be required. And it is not final until you have finalized the approved version.

Approval decision

Ultimately the approving authority will decide along one of three basic lines:

  • Not approved. Needs more work and resubmission.
  • Approved as-is
  • Approved subject to a few minor changes.

Proceed accordingly.

When the document is ultimately approved, ensure that approval is clearly documented. Send an additional email if needed to clarify any ambiguities.

Finalizing the approved document

Once the document is approved, it needs to be finalized.

This means incorporating any new changes, removing "draft" annotations, and ensuring it is properly marked. Things to check include:

  • Filename
  • Versioning information within document

Make a PDF version. Provide the PDF and original version (DOCX, etc.) to those who need it.

Ensure the PDF is properly distributed in the organization.

Conclusion

A solid approval process ensures proper management approval and saves time, reduces inefficiency and confusion.

Build your organization's governance documents with solid effort and following solid principles.

If your organization needs help with improving its internal documentation and policies and procedures, feel free to contact me.

Additional reading

This article is hosted at https://johnbandler.com/approval-finalizing-documents, copyright John Bandler, all rights reserved.

This article is also available on Medium.com at NOT YET (though not kept as up to date).

Originally posted 2/11/2024, updated 2/11/2024.