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Brief: Common Proposal Ploys We Know and Hate

Ah, it's budget time again. That time of the year when project planners vie for precious budget dollars. Sure, they want to work on projects that support the organization; mostly, they want to keep their budgets from being cut.

Easier said than done. Most managers need to combat the typical project planning nightmare: lack of clear instructions, no indication of management priorities, and pressing deadlines. This makes writing realistic budget proposals difficult indeed. But some managers are quite artful, and their creativity knows no bounds when it comes to funding requests.

Common ploys well-known to budget analysts are:

  1. The Retread Proposal - last year’s proposals are resurrected, dusted off, some of the numbers are changed, and if the managers are really careful, they’ll remember to change the dates.
  2. The Doomsayer Proposal - the organization will grind to an immediate halt if this project is not funded; life on earth will cease to exist as we know it.
  3. The Double-Chinned Proposal - most often prepared by managers who have been through a few budget cycles. Here the manager makes a best guess about how much money is needed, and then doubles it. After all, the "bean-counters" will cut the request in half anyway.
  4. The Whipsaw Proposal - this is one where the manager knows if the project’s real costs were known, the CFO would have him in for psychiatric evaluation. So, while the project’s full benefits are touted, the actual costs are grossly understated. Once the initial budget is spent, the story goes like this, "Gee, we’ve invested so much already, it seems a pity to just throw it away..."
  5. The Overlooked Proposal - once the budget is finally approved, part way through the year, the manager will realize that there were a few important projects that s/he simply "forgot" to include in his/her budget request.
  6. The Earnest Proposal - the manager works day and night to prepare good proposals. With the best of intentions, the manager winds up talking too much about things senior management doesn’t care about, and too little about what they really need to know. (not a "ploy", but definitely common)

The bottom line is: An organization's budget process will either help managers to do it right or it will drive them toward taking "poetic license" with proposals.


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