The phrase “be brief, be brilliant, be gone,” has been attributed to many, including President Woodrow Wilson. Over the years, I’ve found it to be far more challenging to be concise than verbose – whether verbally or in writing. Another President, Ronald Reagan, used to ask that all recommendations be presented on a single 8 x 11 sheet. It’s tough, and requires an extremely disciplined approach.
As a young manager, I set up a single page template, which has proven to work, as follows:
- State the Issue.
- State the Alternatives Considered.
- State the Resources Needed (Treasure, Time and Material):
- State the Recommendation, Including the Rationale.
An example – Need for a New Copier in Human Resources:
- The Issue: The Department’s copier is several years old, and has required extensive and expensive maintenance three times in the past six months. This has caused delays in finalizing two major Department projects – the new compensation system recommendation and the proposed Department reorganization.
- Alternatives Considered: After putting together a mini task force of three, who then agreed to poll a wider group, we discussed purchasing a new copier with a maintenance agreement for its life, leasing two for our growing group, and purchasing a maintenance agreement, or providing five high-quality color computer printers that all Department members could access, and could possibly be maintained in-house.
- Resources Needed (Treasure, Time and Material): Each of us explored all options, and learned: that to purchase a single copier, the average cost would be $______, with a maintenance agreement and $________ without. Leasing two copiers with maintenance agreements cost $ _______; while purchasing five shared computer printers accessible to all cost $________. Further, maintenance could be handled inhouse with the Company’s IT department.
- State the Recommendation, Including the Rationale: After undertaking research and looking at costs, potential down-time involved, buy-in from the larger team, and Department-wide accessibility, we recommend purchasing five high-quality color printers accessible to all employees. The purchasing department could make a bulk purchase, further reducing the cost to $_________, and we have buy-in from IT to work with Purchasing to acquire the copiers IT staff can maintain and fix, when needed.
Think about adopting this single-page focused instrument, or design your own. Let me know what you think.