We were recently made aware of this use of Proposal Kit by a customer who told us how he had used our product. He described it as a “trick” to get a promotion, but we think it's a clever strategy, so we want to share his great idea with you.
We all want to move forward in our careers, but unless you have a flashy job where you regularly stand in front of the decision makers, it can be hard to get noticed by upper level management.
Most employees who have worked for the same company for a few years have good ideas on how to improve a process or a product within that organization. After all, those employees are usually on the front lines, whereas upper management often spends most of their time in meetings, removed from the daily operations of the business.
You might have a great solution for improving a product or service, saving costs or streamlining operations, or making customer support more efficient and friendly. But how can you communicate your ideas and get credit for them, too? Talking to your peers won't do it. Often talking to your immediate manager won't get you more than a pat on the back and maybe a year-end bonus, and there's always the risk that someone else will claim credit for your idea.
Talking with your peers or supervisor informally about your great idea is a great way to have someone else run with your idea - and get the credit for it.
Why not take the initiative and put your idea in writing? Don't just mention it to a colleague or even to your supervisor. Write up a detailed proposal that outlines the problem, and then offers your solution, explains the benefits to the company, and includes your recommendations. This sort of proposal is similar to a sales pitch to a potential customer, but it's called an internal company proposal. The purpose is more or less the same, however; you are making a formal presentation to someone and asking them to take action on something you are proposing.
Upper level management will notice that this proposal is not all about you. You are not just asking for a promotion at your yearly review. Instead, you are demonstrating that you have the company's best interests in mind; that you see the broader picture of your organization; and that you have great ideas on how to improve the company. And by putting your thoughts down in a formal presentation that can be passed around and up the chain, you will get the recognition you deserve for your work.
You may have never written a proposal before, but it's not particularly difficult. I already mentioned the basic structure above: introduce yourself and explain the need/problem, then describe your ideas for the solution and explain the benefits to your organization, and finally, summarize your recommendations and explain how you can help make your vision come true.
Now let's break it down a bit more. Your introduction depends on your relationship with whoever will read your proposal. Put yourself in that person's shoes and ask what that person would want to know. Explain who you are, what your experience is, and why you're making this proposal. Describe the need or the problem, using all the specific information you have to offer: numbers, statistics, case studies, customer feedback. For example, you may have noticed that a lack of materials often causes delays in your manufacturing process; that your organization's high fees are causing customers to go elsewhere, or that when one key employee is absent, the whole group ceases to function.
Now, we all know that anyone can simply whine about things that are wrong. Managers do not want to hear only about problems; they want to hear how to fix those problems. The next part of your proposal is what will make you stand out from the complainers because in this section, you will describe the solutions to the problems. Think this section through very carefully, and do any research you need to do in advance of writing it down. Be as specific as possible about what needs to be done. Describe the benefits of your solutions to the company, and explain all the steps and the costs for implementing your solution. Try to account for everything: money, time, training—anything that will be involved. The big bosses will be impressed when you show that you can think like a high level manager.
Now, sum up your proposal by explaining how you can fit into the proposed solution. And then, proofread, proofread, proofread—or better yet, get a friend with good language skills to do the final check. You want to sound like a professional problem solver. You want to look like one, too, so make sure all the pages look great, too. You might want to consider colored page borders or headings or bullet points to add a little flair, but keep the style professional and preferably in your own company's style.
Finally, gather your courage and deliver your proposal to the person you want to impress, and be sure to follow up a few days later to answer any questions and receive feedback. Even if the company can't give you a big promotion in the next round, rest assured that you will be favorably remembered for future opportunities.