Bad Proposal

Are you working on a complex topic, collaborating with others and feeling stuck? It’s time for you to create a bad proposal.

Bad proposal states how you think things should go. Proposal is allowed to suck (thus the name), but it’s still the best alternative you can come up with. Showing it to others might be scary, but it puts something concrete on the table. Something to poke, something to twist and especially something to improve.

Please, no meetings without pre-work! The sooner the proposal is created, the better. When there’s something tangible to comment on, things get so much easier.

How to do it?

Aiming for a bad proposal keeps the bar low. Writer’s block can be avoided just by hammering the stuff down and revising it a few times. If you feel totally stuck, use the five why’s to get you started:

  • What is this thing about?
  • Why should it happen - what’s the benefit?
  • Who are the relevant persons or roles?
  • When should this happen?
  • Where should it take place?

It’s also a good idea to go through all the available materials, pick the relevant terms, define what they mean and what’s their relationship with each other.

Eventually, there’s a bunch of random stuff. Maybe a list of bullet points, maybe a mind map, maybe just something scribbled on the back of a napkin.

Shuffle it around until structure emerges. Cut the excess. Be clear and concise. Create something readable.

There you have it - your very own bad proposal.


Since the proposal probably sucks indeed, it’s time to show it to others. Now book the meeting, get some valuable feedback. Iterating on the materials together for some time and fixing the obvious mistakes brings the proposal closer to good.

In worst case, you were way off and the right approach is the complete opposite of what you proposed. Even in that case, your work most probably caused the decision to steer into the right direction.

In the end, the most important thing is to move forward with the best alternative. Quite often, this means choosing from several bad alternatives. One can only hope that the end result isn’t something similar as in this xkcd comic:

Squirrel plan