Blog Competition Winner – 1/3

UCSC Extension in Silicon Valley offered the students in its Project Management classes the opportunity to enter a competition to write a blog for  The prize for the top three entries was to be published on this site. All the students in the Project Leadership and Communication class of regular blogger and UCSC Extension instructor, Alan Tsuda, took up the challenge.  The top three chose diverse topics from how to “BLUF” your way through a project to the advantages of a yoga approach and ending with thoughts on what there is to love about being a project manager.

Note: invites new and experienced project and program managers to share their insights. If you feel you would like to contribute your thoughts to this blog, please contact the blog coordinator and include a sample of your writing.

Here is our first winning entry…

BLUF your way though a presentation or paper

How often do you find yourself in a team meeting presentation, reading a proposal paper, or reading an e-mail and you find yourself asking the question, “What’s the bottom-line?”

May I suggest that the next time you write an e-mail or prepare a presentation slide deck that you place the reason in the first line of the e-mail or on the first slide of the side deck?  As you are crafting your e-mail or presentation remember the acronym – BLUF.  Bottom Line Up Front.

My suggestion is that you provide your audience with the BLUF purpose statement at the very beginning of the paper, e-mail, or presentation rather than at the end of the e-mail or presentation.  We are not writing e-mails or presentations for “American Idol” or the “Oscars” where heightened anticipation of the outcome is part of the show.

“The project requires an additional funding of $10,000 to complete the project requirements, and we seek your approval.  I am now prepared to provide you with the details and analysis for the request, if you require me to do so.”

The first time I heard the word BLUF used as a rule for presentations came from our new Commanding General of our Army command.  At his first staff meeting he said all future presentations or papers for his review or approval had to be “BLUF’d”. We we’re not sure why he wanted us to bluff him, most commanders demand detailed information and it has to be fact based truth. But this General wanted us to bluff him, what is up with that!? Then he explained that it meant “Bottom Line Up Front”.  The first couple sentences of the paper or the first slide of the presentation had to contain the BLUF statement; what is the purpose of the paper, the presentation, or the request. I can remember numerous papers being returned to the author without being read, or a presenter being stopped in mid-sentence at the beginning of a meeting.  “Where is your BLUF statement?”

How many times have you read through an e-mail or sat through a presentation where the request was at the very end?  You had to sit or read through a problem statement, a history of the issue, a discussion on the pros and cons, before you got to the bottom line of the request?

When was the last time you crafted an e-mail or presentation and waited until the end to make your request?

  • Are we afraid of losing our audience’s attention if we make the request up front before we give them all the details?
  • Are we afraid that our proposal won’t be considered if we tell our management that it’ll cost $1 million before we give them all the analysis first?
  • Are we afraid to tell our management that the project is over-budget and behind schedule before providing them with all the reasons first?

Next time that you author an e-mail or a presentation ask yourself “What is the bottom line of the document, and have I BLUF’d my audience?”



Jim McMahan

Jim entered the U.S. Army directly out of high school in 1978 and specialized in satellite and microwave telecommunications.  He retired from the Army in 1997 with an Honorable Discharge.

Immediately after retiring from the Army, Jim joined NET (Network Equipment Technologies)  and stayed with them for 7 years in several different positions: Field Trials Project Manager, Service Readiness Manager, and Critical Accounts Manager.

Jim started at Aspect Communications in 2004 as a Service Readiness Manager before moving on to NetApp in 2006 as a Project Manager and has worked on a number of different projects since joining them. The largest and most intensive project was a transition and integration from our old CRM system to a new SAP CRM system.

Jim holds an MBA from the University of Phoenix, and a Bachelors Degree in Business Management from the University of Phoenix.  He’s currently enrolled in the UCSC Extension Project and Program Management program and intends to complete his PMP certification this year.


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