In business, there are often a myriad of different memos that are sent around throughout the days, and each type of memo has a very specific set of needs. Some memos provide background on a situation, some deal with day to day office tasks, and others are sent to upper level management to help guide them in their decision making process. This particular article will focus on writing a memo that outlines a decision that needs to be made by someone with superiority. It needs to be an actionable memo, outlining a problem/issue, providing analysis with specific conclusions or recommendations.
Before you begin any writing task, it's important to keep in mind just who you're writing for. In the instance of this type of memo, you're likely writing for your boss, manager, or some other senior level executive in the company, including those in the c-suite (CEO, CFO, COO, CTO, etc.). As they are often busy, you'll hear a lot throughout this article to keep things brief. These types of executives are often faced with multiple issues a day, and will rarely read more than two pages due simply to the tremendous time constraints placed on them.
Outline the Problem
The first step in crafting a memo for an upper level manager to use to make a decision is to ensure that they are fully apprised of what the situation is. While they will usually have a good idea of what is going on, the memo should begin with a very brief overview of exactly what kind of decision needs to be made and what issue is being resolved. You don't need to go into exacting detail with this, just a brief overview to ensure everyone is on the same page moving forward.
Previous Steps Taken
Once you've reviewed the situation this decision is being made about, as quickly as possible you will want to convey what, if any, previous action has been taken regarding the situation. As you are going through and listing any previous actions, be sure and also include a brief summary of why these steps didn't work. Again, all of these sections need to be brief, limited to a sentence or two at maximum. This is not an exhaustive history of the situation, it is only to remind the decision maker exactly what has happened with this situation so far so that no steps are repeated.
Now that the decision maker is fully apprised of the situation, the time has come to bring them up to speed on any and all relevant information to the situation. If a new study has been completed, here you would place the results of that study. It is important that you give them all of the information they are going to need in order to properly make their decision. However, the same side of that coin is that you want to be sure that you aren't giving them any information that they don't need to properly make this decision.
Take some time now to help analyze just what this information means for the decision maker and the situation itself. Does the new study clearly point to a preference by the consumer? Use your own working knowledge of the situation to provide the best analysis of what the information is pointing towards being the correct decision. If something seems clear from the information, state that it seems clear. If there are pros to both sides of an issue, list them, but also be sure to analyze what the cons of a certain choice may be as well. It's much easier to live with a problem from a decision if the problem is known before the decision is made.
Things to Keep in Mind
It's always important to consider exactly who your audience is when sending a memo. If you know they have a certain skill set, or they will be basing their decision on certain things, like the numbers in the case of a Chief Financial Office (CFO), then skewer your information and analysis towards those areas. A CFO will most likely not be interested in making a design decision based solely on aesthetic arguments. Additionally, keep your words active and avoid waffling. If you're going to make a recommendation, stand by it.