ECG Chief Operating Officer Betty Carillo discusses how knowing the audience for your proposed initiative, project, or program will help you consider and address readers' interests, concerns, and issues. By doing so, she stresses, you can get closer to an acceptance of your proposal.
Seeking approval for a project or program, whether external or internal, requires that you conduct a comprehensive, critical analysis and prepare a detailed rationale and explanation before you forward your proposal to the person/department making the decision.
Who is that person? (Or persons.) What do you know about how that person thinks, receives information, makes decisions? What matters to him, her, them? To make your best case in a proposal, you must target your words to your audience, know who its members are, and what their major concerns are likely to be.
The primary issues to most of us in Operations include budgeting and the effective deployment of personnel. But we also are tasked with ensuring that activities fulfill our company's mission and strategic goals, that we recognize and meet organizational needs, that we plan for both the short-term and the long.
As you're drafting a proposal that will be considered by Operations, then, do address the following four concerns directly and concisely. Make them a part of your communication strategy and devise tactics for presenting them clearly and persuasively.
CONSIDER FIT WITHIN COMPANY'S MISSION AND STRATEGIC GOALS
How does the project fit within the company's mission and strategic goals? It must fit, and it's up to you to show us how. And, always, frontload your message—that is, start with a statement that summarizes the fit you see and then follow with your reasoning. Explain. Illustrate. Provide a forward-looking perspective that delineates how your proposed project keeps pace with or perhaps advances company development plans or expectations. But also provide information that helps place the project within the company's historical context.
BE CLEAR AND CONVINCING ABOUT NEED
What need does the project address? Perhaps it solves an internal technological problem. Maybe it expands the company's reach to untapped markets. It could add personnel to an understaffed department and thus increase productivity or morale. Or it may fill an educational gap that has been getting wider and deeper.
Explain, too, how the proposed solution works for the organization. What makes it the best solution for a company such as ours? Is its execution within the right department? How so? Provide reasons, always, so that we are better able to share your view, to understand the impact you believe your project will have, to increase our knowledge of the need and solution you have identified.
PLACE BENEFIT/RISK WITHIN TIME
What are the benefits/risks of undertaking the project now as opposed to later? Make your case through logic, evidence, data. Show why the timeline you propose for your project makes the best sense—more benefit, less risk. Compare now to later in detail, providing differences in costs, markets, revenue to be gained or lost, availability of qualified personnel, external conditions such as changes in the economy or tax structure. Consult colleagues when you need additional information; conduct research for answers that are not currently at your fingertips. Give us your best.
ADDRESS BUDGETARY SPECIFICS
Do we have the budget for all or part of the project? Make budgetary demands clear and, if the project could be undertaken in part rather than all at once, provide the details of both approaches.
Consider, too, how the project ranks within budgetary priorities. Defend your conclusion thoroughly and well. While we may sometimes see immediately that a project falls within those priorities, we rely on what is written in the proposal to make decisions. Make sure the numbers in the project's budget make sense; check, check, check. Back up the numbers so we can follow the calculations that led you to them.
When you know your audience, you can use that knowledge to forge your best proposal, one that gives your readers the reasons they need to say "yes." Persuade us. Compel us. Do both by knowing us.