"So what about Marigold?" Sara asked. She and Karl were concerned that Wolf would argue for trying to fix Marigold first, before even looking at their proposal for Metronome. But Karl had an idea.
"Maybe we don't say anything about Marigold. Suppose we critique a third idea — not Marigold — that looks at least as good as Wolf's. Then we're not arguing against Marigold, and it's a lot less personal. But it still raises questions about his approach."
Sara was impressed. "Yes, and if Metronome is an even better idea, it might be easier to turn the discussion back to Metronome. Interesting…"
Karl and Sara are devising one of the key elements of any proposal — the discussion of alternatives. By demonstrating the advantages of their proposal relative to all plausible alternatives, they effectively turn attention to the approach they're advocating.
Here are the key elements of an effective proposal. Some might not apply in your situation, so be selective.
- What's the issue?
- What issue does your proposal address? Present the issue from your management's perspective. Stick to one issue — complexity is a demotivator.
- What's the impact?
- What was the impact of this issue on a current or recently completed project? Did it affect schedules? Budgets? Relationships? Customers?
- What's the impact of inaction?
- Project what will happen if this issue isn't addressed effectively. Estimate budget and schedule effects, showing how the issue affects future or current projects. Estimate the financial costs and lost revenue associated with these factors, going forward quarter by quarter, for three years.
- Where will the impact be greatest?
- All projects To effectively advocate
for a position,
what your audience
Let that drive
everything else.are unique. What kinds of projects are most likely to be affected by this issue? Rank project types by impact, and estimate schedule, budget, and revenue consequences. This is especially persuasive if your proposal helps favored projects or customers.
- Are there alternatives?
- Every problem has multiple solutions, and no solution is best all around. Explore the advantages and disadvantages of three alternatives. Include financial consequences. This is the piece that Karl and Sara are working on.
- What do you recommend?
- Of the alternatives you explored, which one are you proposing and why? Take a position and defend it.
- What should we do next?
- Assuming that your proposal is adopted, what's the next doable step? Sketch a plan for implementation, including a schedule with milestones, and a budget. Include a risk plan.
- Who should do it?
- Who would work this plan, and how much of their time would be required? Are consultants involved? New hires?
- How will we know if we succeed?
- What criteria determine success? Will we need resources to determine success? How much? When?
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More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:
- Status-Report as a Second Language
- Sometimes, the clichés the losing team's players feed to sports reporters can have hidden meaning.
So it is with Project Status Reports, especially for projects in trouble.
- Help for Asking for Help
- When we ask for help, from peers or from those with organizational power, we have some choices. How
we go about it can determine whether we get the help we need, in time for the help to help.
- Assumptions and the Johari Window: II
- The roots of both creative and destructive conflict can often be traced to the differing assumptions
of the parties to the conflict. Here's Part II of an essay on surfacing these differences using a tool
called the Johari window.
- TINOs: Teams in Name Only
- Perhaps the most significant difference between face-to-face teams and virtual or distributed teams
is their potential to develop from workgroups into true teams — an area in which virtual or distributed
teams are at a decided disadvantage. Often, virtual and distributed teams are teams in name only.
- Wacky Words of Wisdom: V
- Adages, aphorisms, and "words of wisdom" are true often enough that we accept them as universal.
They aren't. Here's Part V of some widely held beliefs that mislead us at work.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming May 2: Narcissistic Behavior at Work: VII
- Narcissistic behavior at work prevents trusting relationships from developing. It also disrupts existing relationships, and generates toxic conflict. One class of behaviors that's especially threatening to relationships is disregard for the feelings of others. In this part of our series we examine the effects of that disregard. Available here and by RSS on May 2.
- And on May 9: Unethical Coordination
- When an internal department or an external source is charged with managing information about a large project, a conflict of interest can develop. That conflict presents opportunities for unethical behavior. What is the nature of that conflict, and what ethical breaches can occur? Available here and by RSS on May 9.
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- The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
- Many people who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.
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