First: Concentrate on essentials
The term "memo" means a piece of information or decision-making that is usually written for supervisors and colleagues. In some Company Such documents are also called "template", "opinion" or "note". Normally, memos are no longer than four pages, although I have already seen templates with more than 30 pages.
Before you get a step-by-step tutorial, make a remark: The goal of a good memo should be to describe as accurately and objectively the underlying problem or the situation. So, focus on the essentials, as the topic of your memo is usually only one of many problems that your boss or colleagues are dealing with.
Step 1: Answer the principle questions
Before you start writing, you need to clarify some basic questions:
- Who are the recipients? How much prior knowledge do they possess?
- When is it necessary to explain the background or context, and when?
- How important is the topic of the recipient (Is it "loved" or "hated")?
- How would the recipient wish to be informed? Is the recipient eye or ear-man, ie does he prefer to receive information in writing or verbally?
- Does the recipient require detailed information or a summary?
- Is the receiver fact-oriented or not?
- Who has to comment on the issue or bring in its position, such as supervisors, supervisors of other departments, colleagues from their own department, colleagues from other departments and external experts (lawyers, consultants, tax consultants, appraisers ...)?
Step 2: Name the priority of the topic
The recipient must be able to classify the problem or issue immediately. Therefore, try to specify the priority first. For classification, I recommend the so-called "Eisenhower Method" (named after the US General and President Dwight D. Eisenhower).
This results in the following combinations of importance and urgency:
- Type 1: rapid, but minor importance;
- Type 2: urgent and high importance;
- Type 3: slight urgency, but high importance;
- anything else is not suitable for memos.
Step 3: Write a concise subject line
On the high meaning of the subject line was already in the episodes over letters and eMails pointed out. The same applies to memos: Describe the problem or the facts briefly and precisely, ideally as a question. So not "Restructuring Distribution System", but: "How should we redesign our distribution system?"
Because it always applies: Memos are for information or decision-making purposes, they should be short and precise. As a rule, as detailed as possible and as short as possible. Part two of our series with the next steps to the right structure.
Step 4: Describe your concern
Before you begin with the actual remarks, you should let the recipient know what you expect from him.
As a recipient, you read a text differently, when you know that it is something to decide, as if you just take note of something. For example, you could use the following categories: "Take note", "Decide to ...", "Conduct conversation" or "Initiate action".
Step 5: Identify the problem or situation
Considering the variety of topics that can be discussed in memos, it is difficult to recommend a general outline. It is always helpful, however, to check whether all important aspects have been mentioned by means of W questions: Who? What? When? Where? As? Why? By which? How long?
If your memo is longer, you should summarize key statements in (actively formulated) subheadings. Also, write a summary ("executive summary") that precedes your remarks.
If you write to several recipients who have different degrees of good knowledge of the underlying topic, you can outsource detailed and further information in attachments. For example, a history or history, calculations, legal foundations or details of alternative solutions are suitable (see step 7).
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