Showing Page:
1/2
BRIEF GUIDELINES FOR WRITING ACTION MEMOS
1. Incentive: Let your boss know why he should be concerned with this issue at this time. Why
is this on his desk now? Why can't it wait?
2. Assumptions: Specify broad assumptions that frame the memo. Why are some things in or
out? “Assuming our current policy..." "Assuming Congress would not..."
3. Options: Present a clear choice of options. Make sure all major options are considered, but avoid the
clutter of irrelevant options. (Justify why some are not elaborated.) Identify sub-options, so that
decision-maker can quickly observe how they differ. Some simplification is essential, but it needs
justification beyond sandwiching a preferred option between formal alternatives. Beware of
bureaucratic tendencies to trade away options in advance and present lowest common denominators.
4. Context:
Ho
w does this issue relate to other issues currently under consideration? Would the
options look different if the context were presented differently?
5. Fullbacks: Remember Murphy's Law, and prepare your boss for the worst. Identify the costs if
a preferred option fails. What are the fullbacks? Will the wrong sequence of actions close off some
fullbacks? Beware of letting the best (your preferred option) destroy the good (a less desirable but more
attainable option).
6. Probabilities: Describe the probabilities that the costs and benefits of various options will be
realized. How sensitive are they to changes in various assumptions? If some larger framework changes,
would the probabilities (and weighting of the issues) change significantly
?
7. Time Horizon: Action memos must focus on the specific issue at hand, but action-forcing events often
provide opportunities to direct attention to longer-term issues. A good memo writer ‘can often put the
immediate issue into a longer-term framework.
8. Brevity: Be brief. Your memo is one of many on a crowded desk. Avoid telling your boss what
she already knows. Avoid overly elaborate analysis and temptations to show off technical skills. (Use
appendices, if necessary.)
9. Bias: You often cannot avoid having a personal or bureau point of view, but you can
avoid slanting assumptions or options. Your expression of your preferences will be more
credible if you openly acknowledge them, and if you fully and adequately present alternative
views.
Showing Page:
2/2
10. Leaks: Memos often receive wider distribution than their authors intend. While
frankness is important, authors should, in choosing their words, imagine how they
might appear in print.

Unformatted Attachment Preview

BRIEF GUIDELINES FOR WRITING ACTION MEMOS 1. Incentive: Let your boss know why he should be concerned with this issue at this time. Why is this on his desk now? Why can't it wait? 2. Assumptions: Specify broad assumptions that frame the memo. Why are some things in or out? “Assuming our current policy..." "Assuming Congress would not..." 3. Options: Present a clear choice of options. Make sure all major options are considered, but avoid the clutter of irrelevant options. (Justify why some are not elaborated.) Identify sub-options, so that decision-maker can quickly observe how they differ. Some simplification is essential, but it needs justification beyond sandwiching a preferred option between formal alternatives. Beware of bureaucratic tendencies to trade away options in advance and present lowest common denominators. 4. Context: How does this issue relate to other issues currently under consideration? Would the options look different if the context were presented differently? 5. Fullbacks: Remember Murphy's Law, and prepare your boss for the worst. Identify the costs if a preferred option fails. What are the fullbacks? Will the wrong sequence of actions close off some fullbacks? Beware of letting the best (your preferred option) destroy the good (a less desirable but more attainable option). 6. Probabilities: Describe the probabilities that the costs and benefits of various options will be realized. How sensitive are they to changes in various assumptions? If some larger framework changes, would the probabilities (and weighting of the issues) change significantly? 7. Time Horizon: Action memos must focus on the specific issue at hand, but action-forcing events often provide opportunities to direct attention to longer-term issues. A good memo writer ‘can often put the immediate issue into a longer-term framework. 8. Brevity: Be brief. Your memo is one of many on a crowded desk. Avoid telling your boss what she already knows. Avoid overly elaborate analysis and temptations to show off technical skills. (Use appendices, if necessary.) 9. Bias: You often cannot avoid having a personal or bureau point of view, but you can avoid slanting assumptions or options. Your expression of your preferences will be more credible if you openly acknowledge them, and if you fully and adequately present alternative views. 10. Leaks: Memos often receive wider distribution than their authors intend. While frankness is important, authors should, in choosing their words, imagine how they might appear in print. Name: Description: ...
User generated content is uploaded by users for the purposes of learning and should be used following Studypool's honor code & terms of service.
Studypool
4.7
Trustpilot
4.5
Sitejabber
4.4