How to Write an Executive Memo

10 October 2016

Your strategy professors have asked the English faculty to cover the executive memo, which you will use in your strategic management class, for two reasons: * The ability to write a short, informative, well-written memo like this will serve you well in your future careers. * Writing a good memo is difficult and requires practice. Students in past strategic management classes have had trouble with the guidelines you’ll see in the following paragraph. Please read this document carefully and be prepared to demonstrate your understanding during the next class session.

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An executive memo is a short (no more than 500 words) internal document whose purpose is to make strategic recommendations to a company. The executive memo has 4 parts: the issue, the recommendation, the action plan, and the discussion of alternatives, in that order. When you write your executive memo, there are several important guidelines to keep in mind: * The memo is short, so every word should count. Don’t waste time giving the company information it already has (i. e. , what the company does, how much it’s sold, etc. * It’s important that you present the material in the order given here.

This is not creative writing! * Everything in the memo should be connected to the issue at hand: the recommendation, the action plan, and the alternatives should all serve to resolve the issue. * Since the memo focuses on the issue, it is crucial that you state the issue clearly. Starting your memo: the subject line Make sure your subject line encapsulates the main issue of your memo. Section 1: The Issue * The memo should begin with a statement of the strategy problem you will address (i. . , you are defining the problem). This definition is key because it determines the direction which the rest of the memo will take. * It is vital to distinguish between observational information and the problem you want to solve. Be crystal clear and specific about the issue you will address. Your issue section should do the following: * Identify the root problems associated with the issue. * Provide a measure of how significant the problem is. * Provide a sense of how urgent the problem is. * Identify the risk if the issue is not addressed.

Section 2: Recommendation(s) This section comes early in the memo because it’s more important that the reader see it than the alternatives. Nevertheless, it’s best to write your alternatives first and choose from among them. * Your recommendation must be one of your alternatives and must relate back to the issue and causes you have defined initially. * State CLEARLY what solution you recommend and briefly why it represents the best alternative. * Normally, the recommendation will be one alternative; however, sometimes it may incorporate one aspect of a second option. Indicate briefly that you understand whatever drawbacks may exist to the solution you have chosen. * Make sure your recommendation is realistic given physical and economic limitations.

This section should be a brief bullet list. The action plan is a schedule for the implementation of the recommendations you have made. * The goal of the action plan is to show the reader (your boss) the scope of the activity involved and demonstrate your understanding of what has to be done to complete it. * Since someone else will probably carry out the recommendations, your action plan gives that person a template to follow. Break it up into activity periods – Immediate, Short term, etc. , with days in brackets. This gives the reader a sense of the time period the program will be finished in. Section 4: Discussion of alternatives.

This section helps the reader understand how you came to your decision and demonstrates that you considered the issue thoroughly. Be sure to present three reasonable alternatives. * The section should begin with a brief introductory paragraph for background; this paragraph should include the basic criteria which the alternatives are judged on. You should then move on to discuss THREE alternatives, which should all have a similar focus: 3 on a new target market, 3 on a marketing strategy, 3 on new distribution channels, etc. * For each alternative, you need to give factors in its favour and the reasons for your rejection, in other words, the pros and cons of each alternative. As you analyze each alternative, keep in mind the risk factor(s) you identified for the issue. * Remember that alternatives and the arguments you make for it must address the issue you have defined.

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