Penning a Persuasive Proposal

Image courtesy of MD Journey

Writing is an art and a science. Often, it involves the right alchemy of formula, focus and flow. 

Effective writing of internal "pitch" documents is an important managerial skill. Through well articulated plans, proposals and submissions, one can lobby for much needed budgets, manpower or other resources to support one's work.

Before putting fingers to keyboard, however, do consider the following pointers:

Begin with the End in Mind

The first thing to do is ask: "What problem/problems are we trying to solve?". This should be articulated clearly and succinctly in the Objectives/Aim of the paper.

Paint the Background

Our next step is to provide some context to the issue. This helps first-time readers - especially those who do not work in the organisation - to gain a better appreciation of the situation.

Normally, a Background section of one to two paragraphs (50 to 100 words each) would suffice. Anything longer might just bore the reader.

State the Issues

Next, identify the challenges faced in the form of a Current Analysis. Explain why the status quo won't do, and be as prescriptive and accurate as possible.

In strategic planning, you can further employ tools such as the PEST analysis, SWOT analysis, or scenario planning. Don't go overboard trying to explain your situation though as brevity is an advantage here.

Understand the Competition

There are two schools of thought here.

Some feel that benchmarking helps one to learn from market leaders. Others, however, feel that it may result in a "copycat" strategy.

If you choose to do this, consider four different forms of benchmarking:

1) With industry market leaders, particularly competitors;

2) With organisations from different industries, but clear superiority in specific areas. For example, IBM for employment practices, Google for innovation, or Ritz Carlton for service;

3) With international industry leading institutions and companies.

Propose a Strategic Solution (or Three)

Now that the competitive environment is well understood, one should propose the appropriate Strategies. These can be as complex as an entirely new business model, or as simple as streamlining an existing process.

Occasionally, it may be necessary to propose different Options, explaining each in detail before narrowing down to a preferred approach. People like to make choices, and doing so aids the decision making process.

Drill Down to Tactics

Having a grand strategy isn't enough. You have to make it work.

Here's where Tactics come into play. Unlike strategies, tactics are the nuts and bolts of what you're going to do.  

Do be mindful of the following common errors:

1) Mistaking tactics and operational duties for strategy. Describing how many press releases you are going to write, or how many artworks you are going to display aren't strategy. Those are tactics. Strategy would be positioning your enterprise in a different fashion, or allowing your visitors to be curators;

2) Omitting critical details from the proposal. The trick here is to gauge the right level of information for the right audiences.

Timelines, Budgets and Officers In Charge

To manage any project effectively, include the following implementation details:

1) Timelines, which can be articulated in the form of a gantt or timeline chart.

2) Budget/s needed for the entire exercise, as well as the sources of those funds.

3) Officers In Charge of the various components of the projects. Duties and responsibilities should be clearly described to ensure proper follow through.

Measure Outcomes

Finally, consider the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) or Outcomes achieved at the end of the exercise. These should fulfill the stated Objectives at the start of the document.

The best KPIs are SMART, ie:

1) Specific
2) Measurable
3) Accurate
4) Relevant
5) Time-bound

Last But Not Least

Finally, include a Conclusion, summarising the key action items. If necessary, reiterate key points from earlier paragraphs and state where approval or decision is needed.

Naturally, not all internal memos need to be this elaborate. There would be some that omit certain sections (eg best practices or current analyses) if they are a continuation of earlier strategic plans.

Whatever the case may be, considering these steps would help you to write more systematically and effectively. Hopefully, it'd help you to achieve greater success in winning over your internal stakeholders while securing much needed resources for your projects.

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