Lots of people identify a Lean Six Sigma training course they would like to attend, they might even have been asked to find a specific training course by their manager. The problem is once you have researched the marketplace and found the most cost-effective and highest quality supplier you will inevitably have to convince somebody somewhere in the organisation to spend money.

It might be HR, it might be a training manager or it might be your manager, no matter who, you must provide a convincing argument to firstly be given the time off to attend the training and secondly to pay for the training.

Obtaining training approval has a few stages

  1. Find the highest quality, most cost-effective course – duration, subjects covered, quality of organisation and cost.
  2. Pull together the justification for the training
  3. Pitch the idea to management or HR to obtain approval

Pulling your justification together – the mechanics

Assuming you have selected your supplier, the first question to ask yourself is who do I need to convince to sign off this training?  This might be your manager or your manager’s manager of a group of people. If you are going to get sign off you must understand who you have to convince, what is important to them and how you should approach them.

You then need to find out how much Lean Six Sigma knowledge they currently have. If they understand the subject then you don’t have to spend any time convincing them of the benefit or explaining the concepts. However, if they know very little or worse, nothing at all, then you must outline what Lean Six Sigma is all about, what benefits it can bring the organisation, what benefits it will bring you, payback periods etc.

As you can see, this process is slowly developing into a series of questions and actions. To make it simpler, we have developed a worksheet to help you through this process.

It is also worth knowing the process that your company has for signing off training. Some companies only use approved suppliers, so if you have chosen a supplier not on the approved list then you must either get them onto the list or find another supplier. Some companies require that you get three price quotes from several suppliers. Others require forms to be filled in or HR to talk to the supplier. Whatever the process you need to know it and then follow it.

Next, if possible it would be good to know who holds the budget and if there is any money left in it. You might have to ask your manager for this information as normally it is not public knowledge. If there is no money left or not enough then you need to understand the budgeting process so you can pitch for it to be included next year.

Some companies only allow certain levels of management to sign off certain amounts of spending. Does your course fall in your managers signing off level? If not then you have a different person to convince.

The next important thing to know or work out is what criteria will your manager use to sign off the training. Is it good for the company in terms of cost and duration, or it might be other criteria such as motivating you or developing you, etc? You must work out what criteria they will use. Note that it is more than likely going to be a combination of factors.

By knowing this it will help you structure your pitch.  It might be that you can also show some other criteria that they have not thought about.

Some criteria to think about

  • The total cost of the training.
  • Duration of the training.
  • Syllabus / Agenda.
  • Dates of training.
  • The professionalism of the training company.
  • Cost-benefit from the training.
  • Additional support and products, e.g. articles, templates, learning guides.
  • Contact support before and after the course.
  • Location of training.
  • Convincing them that Lean Six Sigma training is good for the company.
  • How much it will motivate you or keep you happy.

You will then need to find out what kind of format you are required to provide the request for training in. Some companies have a formal set of documents that must be filled in with justification and quotes others have no formal process and do things by word of mouth.

Find out how you should do this or your manager’s preferred method to obtain these kinds of request. If your company is one who does things in an informal manner (nothing is written down) we would encourage you to put a document together, as it will show how important it is to you and how professional you are, making turning down the request harder.

The current situation

As you develop your justification, the next section you should think about is the current situation in the business and your position. For example, you may want to research if others have been sent on training recently in the organisation and if so what kind of training and at what cost. If others are being allocated training, then there is, if you can justify it, a good chance you could be given the go-ahead.

You might also want to think about the current conditions in the business; are they favourable to allow your manager to free you up to attend your training and to spend the money?  If they are not, then you are going to have to put extra effort into influencing your manager to let you go.

You then need to review your personal position. When did you last go on any training, was the course identified in your last appraisal as the one you should go on, do you have any money left in your own training budget (money allocated to each person). These questions will again form part of your strategy for obtaining sign-off for your training.

Another key area is whether or not you have a project which you can work on immediately. The organisation can then get a return on investment quickly. You will be working on this during the training remember so your project becomes a major selling point for sign-off of the training. If you have a project it is a very positive influence on many occasions for managers as they can see immediately what they and the company will get out of the training.

Pulling together the pitch for training

When you get to this stage you need to think about and analyse the answers you have given so far. You also need to think about if you have experience in this kind of activity, if you don’t, who could you talk to about how to pitch this to your boss? On many occasions if we think about it there is always somebody who is great at getting what they want, how do they influence their manager?

Normally, you need to structure your proposal together with the following information:

  • What is Lean Six Sigma?
  • Why is it applicable to your company and industry?
  • Why is it good for the business / what are the benefits
  • Why do you want to attend the course?
  • Which course is the best – justification and quotes?
  • How will you backfill your role while you are away?
  • How does it fit with your role/development/workload?
  • What is the payback or ROI?
  • Cost of one month’s delay?
  • What are the current issues in the business Lean Six Sigma can assist with?

Influencing your manager to say YES

We assume now that you have collected answers to all the questions above and pulled a great proposal together addressing all the possible questions you could be asked. For some people, however, they still don’t get their training signed off as they are not effective at influencing.

To aid you in this we have developed some approaches which should help.

The first thing to identify is what kind of manager you are dealing with. You may discover that your manager is a combination of the ones outlined below. By identifying what kind of a manager they are you can develop a strategy which will help you influence them.

  • Detail conscious manager – needs every scrap of data, asks lots of questions and needs everything filled in correctly before they can make a decision.
  • Ambitious manager – the key way to motivate or influence them is by helping them.
  • Emotional / Social manager – being liked or developing their people is important to them.
  • Constantly busy manager – people who have no time for anything.
  • Company man – will only do things if it is of major benefit for the company, nothing else matters.
  • Indecisive manager – they need help to come to a conclusion and decision.
  • Insecure manger – they are unwilling to take any risks or commit to anything, as they are unsure of their own role or position.
  • “Don’t care” manager – not interested in anything, totally switched off.
  • The stranger manager – the person is a stranger to you and your colleagues.

You must then determine the following.

When is the best time to talk to your manager – busy people are usually the best first thing in the morning or last thing at night. Or it might be that an email is the best way to get to them as they review them each evening. We would, however, advise talking to your manager when asking for this kind of training. Picking your moment is important to help influence the outcome. If you approach them after a bad meeting or when things have gone bad then it’s not going to go well. Pick your moment.

How does your manager like to be communicated to?

Some managers like to obtain things in email format others face to face. Workout which is the best for your manager, if its an email that comes out as favourite then you need to review past emails from your manager and write it in the same style as they were written e.g. short and to the point or longer with more detail.

What does your manager think of you? If you have a high profile then getting sign-off is easier. If you don’t then you will have to put more work into the influencing part of the approval process. Think of what you would want to hear if you were in their shoes.

It is also worth thinking about how your manager gets measured or rewarded. If you can talk either face to face or in your proposal, about things that are important to them you have a far greater chance of sign off. For example, if they are measured on delivery, or call durations, or productivity explain how your projects and Lean Six Sigma, in general, can help these areas.

There might also be important things happening in the business or some key problems that need to be solved. These areas are the best to talk about in terms of your project or how Lean Six Sigma training can help.

Try to build rapport with your manager if you don’t already have it. Talk about things that interest them, listen to them, mimic how they speak, etc.

Lastly, try not to just use simple verbal persuasion. We hear of lots of people who just go to their manager and say things like can I go on this training, others will say this but give the manager a proposal as we have outlined above. We want you to do more than that. Think about what you are going to say, what your strategy is. Try to have a story painting a picture of why the course will be good for you, them and the company. Put some passion and enthusiasm into your pitch and you will get much further than you would do with anything else.

If you can add examples of other people in the company or your industry that have used Lean Six Sigma successfully then you can use that in your story and proposal.

Look at all the elements we have talked about and develop your strategy to get your training signed off. Remember we have used the word manager, meaning the person you must convince; this could be anyone in the organisation and maybe more than one person, in which case you would have to do this for each person.


Getting training signed off is sometimes straightforward everyone sees the need and you select the best provider and that’s that. However, in the current economic climate, it often requires you to do a little bit more work. You need to think about why you want the training, what is in it for the company and how you are going to influence your boss. In essence, you need to develop an influencing strategy to obtain the training you feel you need. This document is meant as a taster to try to get you to think about that strategy.

We have included some key questions which will help you develop a successful strategy as well as some documents which answer the fundamental responses that you will need to put in your proposal such as what is Lean Six Sigma. Try it and see how it works.

If you would like to discuss your strategy in more detail then please get in touch.