How to propose something to your team

Doers always find opportunities to improve things. However, inexperienced doers sometimes don’t know how to propose or propose irrelevant improvements. With this small post, I intend to share a guide to support people in suggesting new ideas to their teams and companies. Nowadays, with remote work being the default for most digital companies, it is crucial to write concise documents that precisely reflect our intentions to change something in our organizations.

I used to write my proposals following a lean style, trying to be objective and minimalist, but sometimes I could feel they were a bit vague. Unfortunately, besides peer review, I did not have one specific sanity check to validate my ideas and the way I was proposing them. After getting to know the man I mentioned in the next paragraph, I found a straightforward way to cut the BS and cover essential aspects of my proposals.

George Harry Heilmeier was an American engineer, manager, and one of the key contributors to liquid crystal displays (LCDs). Also, he is known for structuring his thinking related to new initiatives. He created a set of questions to guide his thought process when proposing a research project or product development effort. However, I would extend these questions, or at least a few of them, to anything you want to propose to your team, your manager, or your company:

  • What are you trying to do? Articulate your objectives using absolutely no jargon.
  • How is it done today, and what are the limits of current practice?
  • What’s new in your approach, and why do you think it will be successful?
  • Who cares? If you’re successful, what difference will it make?
  • What are the risks and the payoffs?
  • How much will it cost?
  • How long will it take?
  • What are the midterm and final “exams” to check for success?

Having this initial structure gives considerable depth to your ideas and suggestions. In addition, it will make clear to your audience why, how, when, and what exactly you are trying to achieve.

One last point: don’t get me wrong, do your check with the questions from Heilmeir but don’t underestimate the valuable review of your peers.