In his memoir, Honest Abe, Abe Burrows recalled how his involvement in this show came about and the process of writing it.
Burrows wrote that when Shepherd Mead's book was published in 1956, an agent sent him a copy thinking it would make a good musical. Without a plot or a story to build on, Burrows did not see how it could be done, and so he passed. Jack Weinstock and Willie Gilbert wrote a play based on the book and sent it to a number of producers, who all turned it down. When it was sent to Cy Feuer and Ernest Martin, they also did not want to produce the play but Feuer thought the basic property might make a good musical. He asked Burrows to write the libretto and to direct. Since it was Feuer who was proposing the idea, Burrows started to think about it seriously. Burrows had recently had some experiences in the world of big business that helped him see the possibilities of a satire on the subject, but he still was not quite sure. When Feuer suggested Robert Morse for the lead role of Finch, Burrows was convinced, having directed him in the original Broadway production of Say, Darling (1958).
Frank Loesser was approached to write the score but he was also hesitant. He could not see any possibilities for romance, an element that he felt was essential to any musical. Burrows suggested that a young secretary who was a character could be stuck on Finch, but he would be so involved with getting ahead that he had no time for girls. This got Loesser more interested, but he still could not see many song possibilities. Burrows and Loesser kept talking about the show, and bit by bit Loesser came uo with ideas for songs. Meanwhile, there wasn't a book. By the time Burrows started writing, he built his book, at least to some degree, around songs that Loesser had already written.