Avoid This Mistake When Proposing A New Idea

Avoid This Mistake When Proposing A New Idea
Writing things is a good forcing function for clarity

I asked 7 senior software engineering leaders a simple question:

What's your worst mistake when proposing a new idea to stakeholders?

One mistake came up repeatedly: not writing a 1 pager for your idea. In this article, I'll discuss the 3 phases of writing a quick document about your proposed idea, and how to make it effective.

For a deep dive on a related writing exercise, system design, check out the masterclass on Tao.

Phase 1: Writing the 1 pager

Too many of us focus on the implementation and execution of the idea instead of understanding the problem.

  1. Why are we solving it?
  2. Who are we solving it for?
  3. What are the options with pros & cons

A significant portion of your idea proposal document should answer the questions above. These questions help you think about the problem from all dimensions. It expands your thinking and understanding of the problem at hand.

Writing this down has an additional benefit as well: it forces you to arrive at the MVP version of the solution!

Phase 2: Early Reviews

Write the 1 pager in a shared Google Doc and add reviewers selectively. You can ping people directly to get their initial thoughts.

This methodology lets you get feedback faster. The review starts asynchronously, without needing everyone in a room. This gives you the opportunity to revise often and include feedback on the way.

Phase 3: Final Approval

When early reviews are complete, the next step is to build consensus.

From the conversations I had with various engineering leaders, they recommend having live meetings with a few key people. These can either be:

  1. People who have a different approach/opinion on the proposal, and you want to hash out the idea with them in a live session.
  2. Influential people in the team or organization who you want to ensure support.

Once you've received buy in from these folks, the next step is to have a final meeting with all relevant stakeholders. Keep this meeting small, and at this point, all the concerns should be fairly minor.

After the meeting, make sure you broadcast the decision and next steps to all meeting attendees along with others who might be interested or impacted.

This post was by Rajya Mishra. Connect with him on LinkedIn.