Future Proposals Need a Standard Format

It’s incredibly time consuming to read 10,000 word working group proposals. In most cases they could be summarized to a few hundred words if the authors spent the time to better articulate and bullet point the arguments and suggestions.

Also these working group proposals often use wildly different formats, headings and outlines that make comparing them very difficult.

Proposals should be limited to 1-2 pages max, and conform to a standard format. This would allow them to be consumed and compared much more quickly and easily. This is fairly common practice in many companies for exactly the reasons outlined above.

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I definitely agree that the proposals should use a standard format. Extend that to LFG applications as well. create a web form that can filled out maybe?
As far as size goes though…I’m not sure i can get behind that. What if the issue is complex? I read a couple proposals earlier that were both dense and technical…as they needed to be because they were addressing dense and complex issues.
Maybe as a suggestion require an Executive Summary that covers all significant points with links deeper into the document? This way, those with less of an appetite for headaches can pick up the main points out of the summary and then if there is anything specific they want more info on, they can click the link to dive deeper into the abyss…

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Executive summary is a good start, but what I’m suggesting is the concept of a Term Sheet which is basically an EA with pre-defined elements. Otherwise we have the same problem with everyone summarizing things differently. Anyone interested can just google “term sheet example” to see short format proposals.

We used these in my former business to great effect for many years. It forces people to think about their proposal in terms of what’s already been discussed and agreed as the most the most important elements, rather than think about it in terms of the uniqueness and minutia of their latest specific idea. It’s much easier to make things complex, it takes far more effort and focus to simplify.

But we had different term sheet formats to suit the situation. So for example, one type to outline client contract renewals which had their own unique complexities, and a completely different term sheet type for new client implementations. And we had others when proposing new staff or a new internal team/function.

Generally the answer to tackling truly complex or dense topics is to break them into their major components and deal with each major area - not to continue adding endless detail to a singular document and assuming everyone can absorb it.

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Proposals of a certain type following a default format would be fantastic. Executive Summary with links at the top, or even just some bullets, would help improve understanding of the key points.

For WG proposals, I’d like to know within one minute of quick reading:

  • Key objective(s)
  • Deliverables and timeline
  • Metrics defining success
  • Budget broken down by $/member/month
  • Team info
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General approach to build this is to start with metrics or elements that can be expressed in one word, phrase, or list item e.g. “$5,000” or “90 days” or “Community Building”

To the extent possible, avoid allowing extended free text because this is where many people write poorly e.g. using 50 words when 10 will do, or where they go off on tangents expanding on things that are not truly important.

Iterate, iterate, iterate. With more proposals, it becomes clearer how many things conform to a limited list of goals, objectives, tasks, timelines, outcomes and budget.

For example, when we consider “creating working groups” whether it’s for a website, Reddit, Discord, YouTube, or holding a company picnic - how many ways are there REALLY to express the goals, timelines, outcomes and budgets?

Write 3 of them and you’ll realize very quickly the answer is - not many, there is a ton of overlap regardless of the proposal title. So “creating working groups” gets it’s own easy to read format, and what the proposals actually end up highlighting is the differences, which is really where most assessment and discussion should be.

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