Home > Management > BLUF (Bottom Line Up Front)

BLUF (Bottom Line Up Front)

August 14th, 2009

Being a people manager, I receive many emails from my team and from others regarding an issue or a situation with which they require my assistance. Quite often, I have to read an entire story before I get to the question or issue at hand.

I’m a big fan of Mark Horstman and Michael Auzenne from Manager Tools. Although the concept of BLUF (Bottom Line Up Front) is not theirs, they discuss it in their (very excellent) podcasts quite often.

I’ve gotten to the point where I insist that any member of my team sending me an email must state in the first sentence or two what the point of the email is about. I’m also brutal in my own email editing to ensure that the first two sentences tell the main story. If someone chose to stop reading there, my point would still be clear.

A recent example…

I raised an issue regarding a project that was in danger. I was throwing a red flag. The email was going to all sorts of Senior Executives. My first draft of the email started like this:

Three months ago, Project X was started with an estimated completion date of Oct 31. Shortly after starting, the project team discovered that there was a discrepancy between the requirements as documented and the actual needs of our users. Also, the hardware available to complete the project was discovered to be inferior.

The team has since tried various avenues to resolve this sitiuation, such as…

Thankfully, I usually let important emails as this sit in draft while I moved on to the “Next Big Thing” for a while. I’m a big fan of David Silverman’s advice on how to edit an email. In re-reading this, I realised that the reader would have to read quite far down to understand whether I was raising a flag, asking for help, or patting myself on the back for a job well done in averting disaster.

The email was revised to start with the following:

Project X is tracking to be approximately 6 weeks beyond the expected date of Oct 31, with an expected budget overage of $x. We are currently projecting a Dec. 15 live date. This is mainly due to discrepancies in requirements and an unforeseen hardware issue.

From here, the rest of the email outlined the pertinent details of how we got here, what the impact is and what mitigation has happened to ensure confidence in the new date.

When communicating professionally to anyone, via email, voice or in person, giving the bottom line up front sets the landscape immediately so that the other person doesn’t have to guess where you’re going and reorganize everything you have said up to the point of the grand reveal.

Categories: Management
  1. No comments yet.
Comments are closed.