What you need to know to present to senior executives for decisions
October 3, 2014
We may at times need to present our decisions to senior management. Many a times we take a problem-solution tack: here’s the problem and here’s the solution. Unfortunately, this will seldom work at the executive level simply because most of the decisions are strategic in nature and hence, do not have a fixed solution set. Indeed, if there were, it would not have been surfaced to senior management! From our experience, most people don’t know how to present to senior management and they end up having to do more work to fill in the gaps and delay the decision. So if you have to make senior management presentations and don’t know how to go about doing that, this post is for you!
Framing the discussion
Start by framing the discussion by reminding members what you are meeting for. Even if there was a paper circulated on it, you cannot assume that it had been read or if it can be recalled. Stating why you are meeting is important. For example, “We are here to discuss the extension of the software maintenance contract with ABC which will cost us approximately $8M, up from $7.2M.”
State your intent clearly
The next step is to state upfront what the intent of the issue is. This will also help explain what decisions you are looking for. For example, following on from above, “Our intent is to ensure that we can maintain 99.9% uptime on our servers.” This will allow us to know what we are looking for and we will also understand the limitations. We can also see the options open to us.
This is where decisions are made or broken. If your constraint is to keep within the budget of $7.2M, then perhaps continuing the contract with ABC is unsustainable. There are other constraints, of course. These could be resources like internal expertise, time and even space issues. Each of these needs to be articulated clearly, with its impact on the situation.
It is not enough to just say, “We have decided to do this and are seeking your endorsement.” That will get thrown out much faster than you can say “Jack Rabbit!” You need to show to management what options you thought about in getting to your recommendation and why what you are proposing is the best. In choosing the best, it must be one that can meet all, or most of, your constraints.
You also need to assuage management that you have taken uncertainty into account. Share with them the best case and worst case situations and prime them to understand what might happen if the worst should ensue. Sometimes the best option might still not be adopted because the downside is too much. Management will then opt to go with the second best option.
You need to also share your implementation plan. It is no use to have a great idea but no thoughts of how it will be implemented. That will be added to your worst-case scenario and increase the uncertainty of your recommendation. Management will not necessarily dive into your plan. That is not your intent. Instead you are doing that to showcase your ability to connect the dots. This will feature very favourably when it comes to accepting or rejecting your recommendation.
Metrics and milestones
Finally, you need to give a sense of how you are going to track progress. You will need to identify the numbers that point to whether you are on the right track or not and also indicate the milestones. These will shape senior management’s expectations and give them the confidence that you can deliver.
It’s not always about the idea
There you are: 7 steps to make your senior management presentation a success. But does this mean they will endorse your recommendation? Of course not, even if it may have been the best thought-out proposal. This is because there may be other considerations that are beyond your knowledge. There will always be things that lurk in the back of their mind that you are not privy to. Just ensure that you have done a splendid job to showcase your thinking and get ready to implement whatever decision comes out of the meeting.
I wish you all the best!
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