Our clients are very sensitive about their brand, and about the brands of the companies they represent, so one of the first things we needed to create when building our publishing platform was an approval process that could prevent things getting published without an appropriate level of scrutiny. 

The excellent podcast by Mark Suster below talks amongst other topics about what types of services are going to be in demand in the Post-Covid future. Other than the unsurprising cost savings, the other Use Cases were to do with Monitoring, Improving Distributed Operations and Ensuring Compliance.

I thought it might be helpful to share some of what we've learned over the last few years rolling out approval processes to some of the world's leading Professional Services firms. Our process is for publishing but, hopefully it's helpful when applying oversight to other processes as well:

Oversight can be empowering 

When thinking about oversight and approval processes it's easy to start from the premise that the process is inherently somewhat negative. It is more stressful to create something if there is a person who could refuse to approve your work. The creator could "fail" and that'd be awkward all round.

However, the reality we've found is that our authors really prefer to have their work reviewed before it is published. It means that the work is validated and approved before potentially critical outsiders see the material. The maxim that "four eyes are better than two" holds and Professionals are more, not less, comfortable with a level of oversight.

Peers not superiors

Having work checked by peers is really important; it makes the approval a meaningful step. Peer review in academic circles is widespread because it provides feedback and quality assurance - having a "boss" review work when they may not understand the intricacies of a discipline is invasive and likely to go wrong. 

Virtual teams help

We all like to be part of the winning team, creating some type of feedback loop that can help encourage people to feel they are working together is really important. Our experience is that when a team gets larger than a typical sports team, the dynamic can start to erode so smaller units is likely better. More about this here.

Set and use SLAs

Sending work off for approval and then not hearing anything back is stressful, setting a reasonably tight SLA enables the creator to legitimately contact the approver if they have not heard anything by a specific time. The worry is that the work is somehow deficient, but most often the work has simply not been seen yet. Clearly, it also means that the approval process does not hold things up unduly 

Use Apps and Instant Messaging

For precisely the reason above; that we all get too many emails, use other channels to speed things up where possible. 

A single approver is much better than multiple levels

Particularly where peers can be harnessed, try to only have a single approver, multiple approvers lends itself to people not taking responsibility hence the quality of decision-making in practice falls as the number of participants increases.

Hopefully Mark Suster is right that people are looking for solutions for their newly virtual teams and some of the above is helpful to people applying digital oversight to  processes that used to be analogue.