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Common Sense Tricks for Project Managers: Bottom Line Up Front (BLUF)

written by: John P. Reiling • edited by: Tricia Goss • updated: 8/7/2017

Projects are full of detail. Deep and wide detail. Yet, while we must master the detail, we must communicate up, down, and across the organization. Is there a technique you can use to force yourself and your team to synthesize, summarize and communicate to stakeholders at the right level of detail?

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    Bottom Line Up Front (BLUF) The BLUF is similar to an elevator speech; it needs to be a quick summary of our point in 30 seconds or less or about the time we would have to tell our story to a listener while travelling just a few floors on an elevator. However, don’t mistake short duration with being easy to accomplish. It’s difficult to come up with a good elevator speech. It’s very worth the effort, but there are no shortcuts.

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    Getting to BLUF

    Here is how you can get to a solid BLUF:

    • Do your homework. This is the part where there are no shortcuts. You must understand the whole picture, from top to bottom, in order to do an effective job of beginning to synthesize it into a BLUF.
    • Make sure you are thorough with your inputs. This is an extension of the idea that there are no short cuts. Our process of analysis must be thorough. We need to ensure we are asking ALL of the questions.
    • Make sure you are clear with the output of your analysis In order even to begin to construct a BLUF, we need to understand all aspects of our analysis. We need to understand the critical success factors, the risks, the assumptions, and so on.
    • Understand your audience. It is most critical that we understand what is important to our audience. We need to hit the key pressure points head on.
    • Understand exactly what you want to get out of the communication. We need to have an objective with the BLUF. It needs to be simple and measurable. The BLUF needs to speak exactly to our objective, often to get a decision.

    A BLUF forces us to think through the important things and to see things as our stakeholders see them.

    Are you using the technique of building a BLUF in your briefings and communications to stakeholders?

Common Sense Tricks for Project Managers

This series of four articles on ‘common sense tricks for project managers covers changing perspectives, understanding roles and relationships, BLUF and beginning with the end in mind.
  1. Common Sense Tricks for Project Managers: The Sanity Check
  2. Common Sense Tricks for Project Managers: Organizational Roles and Relationships
  3. Common Sense Tricks for Project Managers: Bottom Line Up Front (BLUF)
  4. Common Sense Tricks for Project Managers: Begin with the End in Mind