So today I want to talk to you about what is commonly referred to in military circles as the BLUF Principle and what the word bluff stands for is Bottom Line Up Front.
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The BLUF Principle
This is a communication principle that is used pretty heavily in the military to make sure that any time that a key piece of information needs to get communicated it gets communicated in the right way.
You can imagine being in the military a high-pressure situation where there can be a lot of communication mishaps and the consequences of getting communication wrong in the military are very high. And so that’s why the BLUF Principle is a concept that comes out of the military.
It is very commonly used in business scenarios but it originates in the military environment where communication is key and the consequences of getting communication wrong are extremely high.
What is BLUF?
BLUF stands for bottom line up front
- It essentially means that any time you have an issue that needs to get communicated to senior management, you have to make sure that you do not go down the road of telling them the story from beginning to end.
Now it might seem like common sense when you’re just thinking about it and not applying it, but when you’re in high-pressure situations, you’re having to deal with a lot of different issues.
As you get higher up in the company you’re responsible for an exponentially greater amount of activities inside the company.
- Their time is severely constrained.
- They have a number of issues that they have to deal with on the day to day basis
- You might not have real visibility into what their calendars look like.
If you’re not very well versed or well practised in communications, the whole concept of bottom line up front can fly out the window because right at the moment where you need it, it is not going to be available for you unless you’ve practised it over and over again and you’ve really set that concept in your mind so that as soon as you step into a situation, you should know exactly how to frame a conversation.
Management does not have any lack of clarity about what the issue is. And they do not have any lack of clarity about what the decision is that needs to be made.
- Making sure that the bottom line is up front and in a very summarized format that they can understand it in is what the communication tool that you have at your disposal to make sure that you’re being effective in front of them.
- You’re going to have to be able to communicate the same message that you would communicate to anybody else but doing it using a lot fewer words
- You have to make sure that you can frame your questions in a way that they can easily understand
- They shouldn’t have to ask a lot of follow up questions, some situations won’t be avoided but be able to avoid follow up questions.
- You have to make sure that the way that you present your information to senior management feeds right into their decision-making capabilities.
A lot of times what will happen is that if you’re first starting out your work as an analyst and you really don’t understand this concept you’ll catch yourself getting caught off guard in these meetings because what will happen is that you’ll be used to speaking about issues in a very detailed granular level that management quite frankly does not care about.
Anytime somebody at a senior level needs details they’re going to ask you for it. You do not offer that information upfront because essentially what you’re doing in that place is that you’re kind of alluding to the conversation and quite frankly you’re wasting their valuable time.
If you look at it from the company’s perspective people who are in senior management positions cost the company a lot more money than the people who may not be in those types of positions.
Every single minute that you consume of a senior managers time is time that they could have used to make put possibly a bigger decision
You have to be very judicious with how you consume their time and make sure that you use the bluff principle effectively is a tool that’s going to help you do that.