This post is for you if you want to make a compelling case to senior management to support your business transformation proposal. Here is a template for writing a killer document.
Some considerations before you put finger to keyboard
Call to action
Begin with the end in mind*. Who is the audience for your document, and what do you want them to do as a result of reading it? Your document is going to pack a big punch, and you need to ensure that it is well aimed to achieve your desired result. Great business cases do two things – they bring something into very sharp focus, and motivate decisive action.
Beyond understanding the issue, what do you want the audience to do? For example: assign $25,000 budget to employ consultants to produce a full proposal by 15th June, re-assign 3 staff for 6 weeks to re-engineer an existing product for a new market segment to be launched in Q4, or hire a specific external agency for $15,000 to run a new sales and marketing campaign to sell 120,000 units by Christmas Day. The action should be solution rather than problem focussed.
Continue or change?
Anticipate how it will land for the audience and others that may be consulted. It is human nature to resist change, and change increases risk. There are always winners and losers in any change, including at senior levels, so anticipate and mitigate risks at this level. A great way to awaken people out of their comfort zone is to demonstrate the risks of continuing the status quo. For example, paint a picture of two alternative futures – keep going as we are for the next 18 months vs. make the proposed transformation.
Glass half-full or half-empty?
Decide whether to frame your proposal as solving a problem, or seizing an opportunity. Solving problems is better for creating immediate action, but often doesn’t generate sufficient stamina to follow through to the end. Seizing opportunities is a far more energising and positive message, but can lack urgency of action.
Senior managers are busy people with little time. If you don’t already know the most effective persuasion approach for your target audience, a coffee chat with someone who does, or a friendly chat with their personal assistant, should give you vital clues. What format do they like to receive these things in, verbally, in writing, via a Powerpoint slide deck or written Word document, etc.? Are they a visual or detail person? How long do they focus for and hence what length is best? When will they next have time to consider it?
1. Executive Summary
Short, sharp and to the point. Explain the WHAT, WHY, and immediate next step, but not the HOW. Key purpose is to entice the audience to read the full document. Personally I like to write a very rough Executive Summary before anything else to get the storyline clear, next write the rest of the document, and then return to the Executive Summary to substantially revise and improve it.
2. The Opportunity or Solution
State the size of the prize, in numbers, especially $ and dates. Ensure your proposal will make a significant improvement to the KPIs that the organisation or department uses. The impact needs to be sufficiently large to demand attention.
This is the first part of the WHY in the document. What is going on to create this opportunity, or why the problem needs solving. Why now? This section should contain key messages, if necessary put additional details an appendix. Focus on the current and future, not past. There is often a temptation to write extensively about the past, which can often turn into a defensive apology for the current situation. Best to accept we are where we are, and discuss what can be changed (the future) not what cannot (the past).
This is the completion of the WHY. What options are there? Their pros and cons, ideally backed by numeric analysis, and considering the underlying assumptions and risks. The recommended option or options.
This is the HOW which should move the audience from analysis and into action. Spell out by area the actions by area including People, Process and Technology. Financial and resource implications should be covered, including recommendations about how these will be satisfied.
Next steps and timeline: Who, What, and by When. Greatest traction will occur when these are allocated to specific individuals and small enough to be easily actionable. For example, ‘Operations Director to obtain decision ready proposal for converting widget production to sprout technology from Deloitte by Friday 16th’, not ‘Sales to consider this proposal and provide feedback’.
Propose who is Responsible, Accountable, to be Consulted or Informed (RACI).
Include some or all of the following:
- Sources and opinions: list key sources and opinions of those who have been consulted. Savvy executives always consider the organisational appetite for transformation. This appendix will show whether the proposal is realistically achievable vs. theoretically correct.
- Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats (SWOT) analysis.
- Political, Environmental, Social, Technology (PEST) analysis.
- Assumptions: call out the key assumptions upon which the recommendation is built.
- Financials: full breakdown, line by line, to support KPIs in the main document.
- Risk analysis: risks, their impact if happens, their likelihood of occurring, mitigation plan, owner.
- Market analysis: customers, markets, segments, competitors, market shares, etc.
- Organisation chart showing responsibilities or impacts.
- Legal / Regulatory / other specialist opinions: large organisations often have specialist teams responsible for key areas that need and want to be involved in decision making.
Other relevant Mensard resources
What is business strategy and why invest in it (video).
Smart Business Transformation (audio podcast) also available on Apple iTunes and Android Stitcher
Right is Wrong: 8 essential steps to avoid the pitfalls that smart people make when transforming their organisation (Free book)