Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Writing an Executive Summary

This is among the best and concise (naturally) definitions for an executive summary:

“An executive summary previews the main points of an in-depth report; it is written for nontechnical people who don't have time to read the main report. The executive report contains enough information for a reader to get familiarized with what is discussed in the full report without having to read it.”


Several key things to note in this concise definition:
• The summary serves as a preview of the report; it is not the report itself.
• Consider your audience when writing as they are mostly non-technical.
• Their time is limited so you only have a few seconds to capture their attention.
• They shouldn’t have to read the entire report if you have done a nice summary.

The executive summary is a 30 second or less elevator speech to the executives you would be pitching to if you were riding up the elevator with them at work. You want to grab their interest so they will support your ideas with other management leaders in the organization.

In conclusion, here is an executive summary I wrote to gain buy-in from high level management for a project I launched to collect customer satisfaction data in real time from our global customer base.

The Customer Support and Information Lab (CSIL) does not have a method to measure customer satisfaction with the documentation it produces. The documentation is available for download from the Web site. Although documentation feedback links are provided on the Web site, comments from external customers are rare.

Our goal is to correct this situation using a simple one-minute survey designed to measure and manage customer satisfaction with our documentation. Our external customers cannot be held accountable for providing documentation comments to us. Rather, CSIL is responsible for contacting customers directly and eliciting that information from them.

This survey is a proactive measure to contact customers and own the customer feedback process. It will demonstrate to customers that we care about their opinions and want their experience using our documentation to be positive.

1 comment:

  1. Mindmaps provide a completely different, but very useful, take on the executive summary. Have you ever made an executive summary map? It's like handing someone an onion (but more fragrant) that they can peel as much as they want to. If the expand the map to the first level, they see the high points. By opening up all the subbranches connected to a topic, they can access more information--if they so desire. We've worked with executives who just want the big picture. Then there are others who want that--but then want to be able to access the details if they are so inclined. Map allow for this variation in curiosity.