Having trouble getting your improvement ideas agreed to in your business? Maybe you need to get to the point!
If your memo, report or presentation hasn’t defined what you want to do and what benefit it will provide in the first paragraph – or better still, first sentence – your readers’ attention has probably dropped by 50%. If you leave your recommendation and benefit to the last paragraph, you will have next to no chance.
We are all very busy these days and time is very valuable. We are all bombarded with distractions from all places, emails, phone calls, instant messages, meetings etc. If your proposal or idea doesn’t catch someone’s attention in that first opening sentence or paragraph, something or someone else will grab that attention and your great idea will go nowhere.
I was reading a report completed by a consulting company who had done a detailed study into a businesses operating approach. It had great data, a detailed methodology and after skipping most of the content, a conclusion and numerous recommendations as dot points, at the end of the document. I’m sure all the information is there that the study was tasked to do, but it wasn’t a clear and concise recommendation. At the end of it, I felt there was no clear direction, despite all this good work.
You’ve likely been taught to develop reports in tertiary studies that required you to describe a problem, then the methodology used to assess options, describe the outcome of each option blah, blah, blah, and then finally, report the recommendation and benefit. For academics, this is no problem because that’s the approach you follow to make good decisions. But a business report needs the answers immediately, then the methodology and justification.
Another point to remember: if you’re doing any type of improvement recommendations, you were employed to do just that. The fact it’s your job means your leader already trusts that you know what you’re doing. As an example, you might have an engineering degree and therefore each report doesn’t have to demonstrate your approach to problem solving, just the outcome. Remember to put your recommendation and associated benefits first.
So, get to the point, keep the language simple. Remember who you’re writing for. They, like the rest of us, will have an overflowing inbox. If you want some examples of how it’s done, read a newspaper article and see how those stories are structured.
By David Archinal