What are we trying to achieve?
Just before we launch into the stereotypical three-tip-recipe, let’s take a moment to remind ourselves of why we use business cases at all: “Business cases exist to propose beneficial change that will create value”.
I think this is about as succinct a definition of why business cases exist as can be conjured up by anyone. So clearly, we need business cases, we just don’t need them make a “thud!” as they hit the desk.
Tip Number One: Use a plan on a page
It’s undeniable, writing a business case is just a smart thing to do. But, people are time poor. Give readers what they need quickly, in succinct, convincing and unflowery language.
A plan on a page is an ideal way to describe the business case for innovation, as it constrains the space available and therefore naturally drives you to be more succinct, even visual.
A Business Model Canvas is a perfect form of a one page plan and if you care to know more then read about the business model canvas here. The objective of a business model canvas is to succinctly demonstrate the value created by a business and describe how value is created and measured. In other words, it’s a business case.
Tip Number Two: References Reduce Duplication
Some years ago, I worked for a global miner. My task was to deliver a solution design for the communication systems and control processes of autonomous vehicles. The previous person in the role delivered a document that caused the downfall of two rain-forests!
It took me some weeks, but I presented a document around 10 pages in length (8% the size of the previous document).
My approach was to reference all the relevant existing information (documents, libraries, the internet) and tell the reader to go to those sources if they needed to see the information which I referenced as the basis of my design.
In certain organisations, people’s jobs, even lives depend on everyone knowing about source documents such as strategy, processes and procedures. So the reader doesn’t need you to duplicate information. Referencing the sources of information adds authority and validation to your claims and observations and saves trees!
Tip Three: Use Visualisations not Words
An effective and simple diagram can instantly communicate a complex scenario that evades succinct description. So I will write no more on that. Just look at the increasing popularity of infographics.
Damn, I wish I had a chart to show you the increasing popularity of infographics!
It takes me about one hour to facilitate somebody I’ve never met before, to create a business model canvas for a new startup, a new innovation, or a crazy idea that just might work. The objective of the first hour is simply to get everything out of people’s heads on to a “single page” so that we can stand back, critique, clarify, think more then refine the information again, and repeat.
Why is that we spend weeks writing business case documents? Innovation can’t wait that long. The speed and rate of change increases constantly. So the processes for approving innovative projects has to accelerate accordingly.
Next time I’ll write about why constraints are important, so that you don’t think I just want you to sign blank-cheques.