Information documents vs. proposals

Recently, one of the teams I work on has seen a good emphasis on circulating information before meetings so people can make better decisions and allow time to process.  A healthy culture of “put together a proposal and we can evaluate it” has emerged.  I really like this approach, because it allows for new ideas to emerge objectively and gives people time to process and prepare questions.

However, I’ve noticed a tendency of people to circulate what I would call “information documents” not “proposals”.  The information is usually good, relevant and timely, however, the challenge with information documents is that the next action is not always clear.

I think a good proposal is not as much about format as it is about the content.  I think a good proposal that I can act on or decide about would have the following content.

a. What is the decision that needs to be made?  (Clearly lay out what you are asking me to say yes to.  I can say yes to pretty much any proposal – it’s the implications of the proposal that are usually contentious.)
b. How much will this cost? (Financial, opportunity, other…)
c. What are the implications of making this decision? (What will need to change because of this?  The way I budget, how I allocate resources, my time….??)

What are some helpful tips you’ve found for creating proposals?

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2 thoughts on “Information documents vs. proposals

  1. Good post Russ! I’m definitely learning about the value of good proposals.

    At corporate IT, we are starting to try to get into the habit of writing consistent project proposals, even for smaller projects. I’ve been trying to work on a template we can use for project proposals, and I was wondering if you have something your team uses that we could learn from or share?

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  2. Jason, I don’t have a specific format I work from right now, but would be glad to learn if you have something you can share.

    I think the most important part of any proposal is trying to be as clear and specific as possible on what you are actually asking people to agree to.

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