Are you doing “completed staff work?” If not, it may have a big impact on your ability to your innovative ideas accepted by your boss, and his or her boss.
In a nutshell, completed staff work has to do with thinking through an idea or proposal so thoroughly, all your boss has to do is make the “go/no go” decision. There is nothing for them to add.
Contrast this to the way most people work with their managers: Typically, the average line worker asks his or her manager, “Here’s a challenge I’m facing – what should I do?” This puts the onus on the manager to come up with a solution, which he or she often does. But such upward delegation does nothing to help grow the worker’s expertise or problem-solving abilities.
As Oren Harari explains in his blog, this is the kind of thinking that leaders are really looking for:
The distinction is that you should be advising your boss what to do, not asking him or her what to do. Taking the attitude of “completed staff work” helps to ensure that you won’t be taking half-baked ideas to your boss for review. As Oren points out (quoting an old U.S. Army manuscript on completed staff work), it’s up to you to “study, write, restudy and rewrite until you have evolved a single proposed action” for review and approval by your boss.
I heard of the idea of completed staff work a number of years ago (I may have even read about it in Oren’s first book, Jumping the Curve, which I read over ten years ago), and I have tried to make it a part of the way I work with my bosses. It makes a big difference in the way he or she perceives you. If you take only completed staff work to your boss, you’ve just made his or her life easier, and have added more value to yourself and your position!