Writing for a Decision - asking for what you want.
You need a decision from the senior management team. You have the recommendation ready and the supporting evidence. You’ve got graphs and infographics, everything.
Then you kick off like this:
Would you do this if you were telling your work mates in the pub about your big project? No. You’d start with the brilliant idea, or the important question.
In the pub you’d be much more straight forward. Like this:
You might argue that this is too informal for the workplace? Maybe. But here’s what’s going on. In the pub, you are thinking about your listener. What do they need to know to get up to speed quickly? The language you use may be informal, but the structure works.
You can easily take this skill and make it more business-like. Here’s how to apply it to your Board Paper.
Don’t start with the background.
This is like gathering your thoughts in public. While you’re rehearsing how we got to this point, the Board is already, well, bored. Write it down if you need to, but be prepared to move it down the schedule.
Instead; ask for what you want upfront.
What do you want the reader to be thinking about? What does your reader want to know. NOT what do you want to tell them. There’s a difference. It’s about them, not you, at this point.
We call this your clear ask.
This is the thing they need to DO, the piece of information they came for, or the decision they need to make. You may think this is the conclusion, the final reveal, but don’t make them read that far before they know why they’re here. You’re not writing a thriller.
So, if you take your pub style and turn it into business-speak, it’s probably something like this:
Take a moment here just to check that you’re not telling them what to think. It’s the senior leadership group. They like to think they bring something to the party too.
Think again about your reader; the Board.
Do they like the straight-forwardness of ‘we are asking’. Will they prefer the considered tone of ‘we are seeking’ or value the deferential ‘the Board is asked for its decision on…’? Check your tone. It’s how you adapt the language of the pub (‘we need’, ‘you have to’) into the workplace.
By starting with your clear ask, and not the background, you have immediately engaged your reader. They’re now busy reading and processing. So they’re more likely to make the decision you need.
Are you writing for the Board, pulling together a team report, need a decision from the senior management?
We work with writers on their live documents. We'll show you how to apply our framework: reader, order, story, edit. and make your paper easier to read and act upon.
If you’d like to see how this could work for you, send over your latest report and we'll take a look.