PUT THE RECOMMENDATION FIRST! – Holly Foster Media

PUT THE RECOMMENDATION FIRST!

“My dear, here we must run as fast as we can, just to stay in place. And if you wish to go anywhere you must run twice as fast as that.” – Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

Contrary to the pace I experienced when I began my career, business communications now travel at lightning speed. I don’t know about you but I have become something akin to a human scanner; it’s the only way I can get through the blur of emails that race across my inbox each and every day. But like Alice, I must make my way through the madness and balance the need for speed with the ability to convey important information.

Judy Steiner-Williams, senior lecturer at Kelley Business School, points out that the vast majority of business writing is informal. That has been my experience as well. Knowing people have limited time and short attention spans, business reports are often kept short — often no more than one page. Even so, a good report should include the following components:

  1. Executive Summary (the whole report in a nutshell)
  2. Introduction (purpose)
  3. Body (problem, background, research, and analysis)
  4. Conclusion (evaluation)
  5. Recommendations (practical, actionable items for the report)

It sounds like a lot of information, and it certainly can be. The trick is to make it as brief as possible without cutting corners. Remember, your audience is a decision maker who probably doesn’t have a lot of time. That could be your boss, a peer, or anyone who needs more in-depth information regarding a specific problem or issue.

If you feel constrained by the five-part structure, don’t worry; you can expand your sections to meet the specific needs of your audience. This business report goes into detail while remaining one page in length. Notice that it uses the seven headings listed below.

  1. Executive Summary
  2. Background/Rationale
  3. Benefits
  4. Risks
  5. Cost Analysis
  6. Timeline
  7. Recommendation

But wouldn’t it be a bit more fun to shake things up a little?

Get crazy. The Red Queen might say we should put the recommendation first, just in case your reader doesn’t read the whole thing. It’s madness, but I propose that it just might be the most practical thing we can do.

What do you think?

until nxt time …

References

USC: University of the Sunshine Coast. (2017, May 2). How to write a business report. HRetrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=4&v=V8uF1EoIneE

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