25.11.2011 0 Comments

Logic is the beginning of wisdom not the end…

Logic is the beginning of wisdom not the end…

Despite not being that much of a fan of Gene Roddenberry’s classic science fiction entertainment franchise, Star Trek, I love this title of this Blog which came from one of his greatest creations, Dr. Spock.

For any bid or proposal writer, ‘Logic is most definitely the beginning of wisdom and not the end.’ Let me explain…

When I’ve been asked to sit on evaluation panels for any funding awards, I’ve often found myself questioning what it is precisely some projects are actually trying to achieve.

In my experience, far too many proposal writers feel the need to write in a kind of ‘Marxist’ poetic language, that leaves you questioning what they will deliver, what the project will achieve and what difference it will actually make.

What on earth is Marxist poetic language, I hear you ask? Well, many years ago, my grandfather used to be a member of The Left Book Club, and he regularly used to pass me books which were written in a fairly ideologist tone, referring to “rivers running free” or citizens being “unshackled from the chains which bind them”.  You know the kind of thing, where ‘chains’ are used as a metaphor for all the forces which have enslaved and limited mankind throughout its history, or the ‘river’ is intended to represent society, released from the ties that bind them to the state.

Whilst I ultimately found the poetic nature of these texts beautiful, I often found myself questioning how on earth you could possibly build a political ideology on such musings.  I found myself questioning how Marxism would achieve this highly aspirational goal; how would I notice that things were different; and what impact would this have on society?

On occasion, I have also found myself asking the same question of a number of bids I have been asked to evaluate. Sometimes, I have even felt the writer of a particular bid has deliberately written a proposal in a poetic style because they didn’t necessarily want to be held to anything concrete.

On other occasions, its felt like the writer has not got the operational skills to know how to deliver a particular project, or simply lacked the ability to translate the ‘bid strategy’ into anything more meaningful.

Thus, when faced with a bid of this type, I found myself asking the same types of questions that I did when my Grandfather passed me one of his poetic texts.

So began my search for logic.

Not I should hasten to add, with a detailed examination of the ramblings of a certain pointy-eared Vulcan, but the search for a tool which helped me structure my business cases and bids better.

That’s when I discovered one of the most useful tools in a bid writer’s toolbox – the Logic Map.

A logic map is a visual representation of the relationship between the various components of a project or programme of work. It focuses you on the key components of your project, including your inputs (the things you plan to deliver), the outputs (the deliverables you will achieve), the outcomes (the changes the project will achieve) and the impact (what will be different because of your project).

An example of a logic map is shown below.

In addition to being a useful tool in helping you to structure your proposal, personally, I have also found it a particularly useful tool in analysing what the funder is looking to achieve.

If you go through the ‘call’ highlighting all those things that look like things you are expected to deliver and/or outcomes/outputs/impacts your solution is expected to achieve, you can then categorise these into the relevant sections of the logic map, shown above.

This then will provide you with a framework around which to build the project.

In short, it’s a really useful tool for ensuring you develop structure in your proposal, you reference the deliverables you are intending to achieve, and you avoid the pitfalls of producing a load of high-level strategic waffle which leaves the bid evaluator questioning whether you even understood the question.

Because a good logic map can help you to develop a framework for communicating your delivery model at the development stage of your project, it’s probably only fair to suggest it’s ‘the beginning of wisdom not the end’.

After all, true wisdom is only ever achieved when you’ve been awarded the contract!


Jim Sims is Head of Strategy & Development at Ngage, to discuss bidding strategy or bid writing support email jim.sims@ngagesolutions.co.uk or call 01494 568 954.

Photo courtesy of Dawn Shumate (@dawnshumate)