Proposal Forming

After we have qualified the driver, we go ahead and design a solution for it. A proposal is a group process for co-creating a response to a driver that draws on the collective intelligence and diversity of perspective within a group, involves people in co-creating agreements and fosters accountability and sense of ownership. It may be also be used by a person.

There are a few steps when designing the proposal. You don't have to go through them all (you don't "have to" do anything), but you need to at least make a conscious choice which ones to put effort into. The process could be either short or long depending on the scope and complexity of the tension. Rule of thumbs is: the larger the scope and higher the complexity, the more the proposal design benefits from more people being involved. This is collective wisdom and intelligence in effect. The steps are:

Consent to driver: Is this driver relevant? Is the driver a good description? If not, rewrite it, send it somewhere else or scrap it and move on. We need to agree on the opportunity or problem statement first if we are to create the solutions for it. Otherwise it will be a messy and not very fun process.

Questions about the driver: Deepen shared understanding by inviting questions to understand the driver in more detail. This is usually done naturally as part of the previous step of consenting to the driver. But it's generally not a bad idea to go deeper into a driver in order to understand it more fully. Since everyone has a shared understanding of the challenges involved, this saves us time upfront and results in decisions that are in touch with actual needs and thus much easier to implement.


Collect questions that reveal constraints or possibilities. Who will be affected by our decision? What might be different outcomes? How will it affect the business and people? How might we be limited in our choices? You don't need to agree or have the answers to them as of now, just list as many as possible.

Answer questions

If possible and you have the time, you can do this. It might take time but is a good investment especially if the task at hand is difficult and would benefit from more clarity. Again, you don't need to agree, only make sure that possible perspectives are shared with each other.

Prioritise considerations

Some things will be more important to consider on and focus on than others. There are different ways of doing this, voting is a usually a good method since it gives you a snap shot of what is most important. Often, we agree fairly well. Well tested metrics are "importance" and "urgency" – the more important and urgent, the more you need to act on it.

Gather ideas

The next step is to gather possible ingredients for a proposal. This is fun! Show courage and explore many different avenues. There might be things you didn't consider initially. Question your own and your colleagues' assumptions in the process – not by argument but by expanding even further. Feels like you've hit a dry spot? Go the other way. You don't need to agree in this step either – this is just a way of expanding your minds and hearts so that you have many things to play with when ultimately designing the actual proposal. Go crazy långkalsong, helt enkelt.

Select tuners

These are the people who will design the proposal. (Everything up until now is prep work.) Tuners may also be selected in the beginning but right about here is usually a good time to narrowing down. Proposal design can be made by one person only, but the larger the scope and the more complex the tension is, the more it will benefit from more people involved. But don't involve more people than necessary. Between two and three tuners is usually appropriate. Of course, check for any objections to the proposed tuners.

Who to pick? Passion, competence and availability – the people who want to co-create the solution, has the wisdom and skills to do so and isn't currently swamped with too much other things right now are usually the right people.

Designing the proposal: The proposal should address the driver and build on all the considerations and ideas gathered so far. Keep the proposal simple enough without losing complexity. Those who make the decision need to understand what it's about. If not, the proposal likely won't pass and you have to go back to the drawing table. It doesn't have to be perfect, but it needs to be good enough and safe enough.


Proposal template

The proposal should contain the following:

Driver statement:

As defined above.

Proposal text

A concrete suggestion that can either be approved or rejected. No open questions. Dare to make it concrete! Not concrete enough? Ask for advice (see how, below) and make decisions on what to propose. The proposal text can also be presented using imagery or by other means. The most important thing is that it's clear and gets the message across.

Who is accountable

Shared accountability regarding a specific need usually means no accountability. Make sure to define the owner – one person who is ultimately responsible for following through on the agreement. This does not exclude other people from participating or even carrying most of the work load (both-and). But one person is always ultimately responsible.

Evaluation date and/or frequency

This is the only way to know if things that we agree on gets done. When and how do we go back and check how things went? Is it a one-time event or something we do on a frequent basis? If so, how often? Maybe weekly or next quarter. We decide, and we follow through on it.

Evaluation process and criteria

Equally important. Should we do a one-hour retro, a stand-up or a survey? What should we evaluate – hard numbers or subjective experience? Again, we decide, and we follow through.


A final note in proposal forming: Designing a proposal (or doing anything regarding self-governance, really) is never linear. The models are linear to help you sort your thoughts but be prepared to do things differently if needed. Everything is needs-based.