Common Approval Problems & How to Avoid Them

Common Approval Problems & How to Avoid Them

Although process designers may cringe at the thought, adding approvals or other checkpoints throughout the process can have both positive and negative effects.

Even though process designers may cringe at the thought, adding approvals or other checkpoints into processes can have both positive and negative effects. The positive results are usually fairly clear; cost savings, reduced risk and validated authorization. Sometimes, reducing the costs and risks can introduce new challenges. Here are few of the ways to avoid common problems with approvals.

Waiting until the last moment

When people know their manager has three days to approve a paid time off request they may not request their vacation be approved until three days prior; waiting until the last moment. Submitting for approval as early as possible increases autonomy and will lead to not only better communication but also improve relationships and reputations.

If the team or company communicates this to approval submitters, there should be a matching policy that approvers review and approve in a timely fashion. This is also one reason that approval submissions should be as easy as possible. Daunting forms and complex request initiation also contributes to delayed submissions.

Additional remedies that process designers can make include making approval requests simpler to submit, streamlining approvals, or centralizing approvals (to read more check out our Approval Essentials).

High cost of approval

As companies and teams adjust to new regulations or tweak existing ones to reduce costs or increase compliance, the changes may have unintentional impacts. Things like increased delays and decreased revenue may disrupt business as usual; creating a difficult situation. These situations can lead to increased costs, customer dissatisfaction, product recall, high maintenance costs, or other unintended effects.

Carefully consider the cost of adding an approval step before modifying processes. Could reporting and random audits be used to achieve and exceed compliance goals? Are you adding the best approval for your specific need? Read more about other types of approval and workarounds here.

One-size-fits-all approvals

When approval transactions are controlled by technology, a lack of casual and organic communication can introduce risk and can often degrade the exchange of crucial information. Generalizations and assumptions can be made, introducing risk.  If teams are remote or very large, it’s even more likely that your approval system should give some opportunity for discussion or further collaboration beyond a simple binary “approve” or “reject”. Some other workarounds include the use of text messaging or instant chat to have a discussion prior to approval. For more ideas on how to increase the collaborative process during approval, check out the section “Approving” in this Approval Essentials Guide.

Unreviewed approvals

In a hectic and time constrained business environment it is often easier to take the path of least resistance and click approve, rather than take the time to look at the details of a report. The more approval items and notifications are received, the more that managers and approvers will ignore or short-cut approval mechanisms. As soon as nobody takes approval seriously, it loses the authority and control it once commanded.

Approval process designers should gain buy-in from stakeholders as well as corporate policies that support and enforce the use and authority of the approval system(s). Also, approvals and notifications should be as streamlined, as simple, and as effective as possible. To read more about various approval techniques read our Approval Essentials Guide.


If you’re a leader, process engineer, designer, or application developer you have no doubt dealt with approvals.  If you want to read more about improving the experience, check out Creating a Great Approval Experience an in-depth article with many more experience points explored.  We would also love to hear your stories, tips and challenges. Please ask [email protected] a question. Finally, to read more about the technology we use to solve these challenges check out The Kinetic Platform.