30 September 2005

How to write a memo to your boss

When writing a message to your boss, the cardinal rule is to keep it simple, brief, and to the point. Here's a template for a simple memo or email:

- Why you should care: Briefly describe the problem and why the "as is" state needs to change.
- What you/we stand to gain: Briefly describe the "end state" you envision.
- What I propose: Describe what you want to do, with special attention what's unique or different. You might need to explain how or why it is different than things that have been tried before.
- How it will work: Describe the resources you will need, and break down the entire plan into three easy-to-understand steps, complete with milestones and deadlines.
- Risk considerations: Take a balanced view and do your best to define the risks, relative to the rewards, of proceeding
- Next steps: What specific action(s) do you want from your boss, right now?

Important note: If your boss says yes, be prepared to have the project added to your workload!

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1 comment:

Sydney said...

Man, my boss was long gone after line two. Thats how much of my email he'll read. So I've learned to be like Ernest Hemingway. You know, when he was challenged to write a story using less than what was it? 10 or 12 words? And he said, I'll do you one better, I've written one in six:

"For Sale: Baby shoes, never used."

E. Hemingway

Its said he sometimes thought it was his greatest work. Which is a hell of a huge thing. So with my boss, I try to convey the most information I can in as abbreviated a form possible. Because I've only got... those first two lines.