Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Writing a proposal -- a checklist

Most of us don't write books -- this blogger excepted -- but many of us have to write a proposal to win business, or even win a job. And then, if you're on the job, there may be myriad presentations and documents to deal with.

Smart PMOs put some of us on red teams -- the independent reviewers. So, how about a checklist to guide the work along?

At Jurgen Appelo's NOOP.NL I recently saw just the thing -- though it was presented as a checklist for writers generally -- presumably books, but certainly applicable -- with a few modifications -- to almost anything you're writing.

Appelo posits four stages:
  1. Brain dump for what you want to say -- Let me add: draw up some storyboards... If you can't draw it, you probably can't write it!
  2. Shaped version for sharing with only your best friends
  3. Polished version used for tweaking
  4. Final version -- here, I offer a suggestion from my own experience: put the whole thing away for a couple of weeks. Come back to it and tweak/rewrite... you'll be surprised how different it looks from the vantage of a few weeks
If it's a paper your writing, then you'll need an abstract. And, I like to lead with an executive summary.  Add these to the checklist under Stage 1 of Jurgen's list

If it's a proposal, then you have to follow the sponsor's guidance or direction about what's to be in the proposal, but I can't imagine a proposal without an executive summary for the executive reader

And, if it's a proposal or a book, the publisher/sponsor may have author guidelines, style guides, trademark requirements, etc.... Add a look at these as a step in Stage 1.

If you're on your own, I still argue for the executive summary -- some call it a preface -- but thereafter, Jurgen's list is a good guide.

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