Executive Summaries are nearly always far too long. They bury the key messages and fail to clearly state what is required from the board. And that’s when they’re included!
Ask 100 people the secret to a great Executive Summary and you’ll get 100 different answers, so it’s no surprise most revert to what they know — an introduction that sets the scene.
But this is bad for business and particularly bad for boards. Time-poor readers want a pithy precis of the paper, drawing out the pertinent points, before diving into the detail. And as a Chairman recently told us:
“An Executive Summary should be a summary. If it’s longer than a page, then it’s not a summary!”
Are Executive Summaries really necessary?
Absolutely. They allow the reader to grasp the key messages quickly, saving time doing Sherlock Holmes-type detective work trying to decipher what the paper is telling you.
Don’t listen to anyone who says they are duplicative — they are the single most important part of every paper.
What does a best practice Executive Summary include?
- Every Executive Summary should start with a scene-setting sentence linking the paper to the big picture and the strategy of the organisation;
- It should then set out the purpose of the paper in as few words as possible;
- Next, the author’s brief conclusion in response, being crystal clear on what is being asked of the board and teeing management up to get value from the board meeting.
All of this in one page or less!
So, what’s the secret?
The secret is simple: consistent execution.
You need a robust structure, used by everyone for every paper. This makes it quicker for the reader to glean everything they need and easier for the author to write.
What impact can effective Executive Summaries have on Boardroom conversations?
Information is the stimulus for conversation. Be explicit about what needs to be discussed and what you want back from the board. Instead of the board hunting for clarity, you’ll focus them on the real issues so every minute of the meeting adds value and you’ll reach smarter, faster decisions.
As an aside, an effective Executive Summary also builds confidence that the author understands the issues.
What can I do to improve my Executive Summary?
Two solutions will transform your Executive Summaries:
- Templates: supply your report authors with a structure to guide them and provide the information the board need.
- Training: upskill your paper writers to give them the confidence to deliver best practice.
Both of these are needed to drive a sustainable change. Improving Executive Summaries is the single quickest change you can make to get more value from your board meetings.
How does your board pack stack up?
Your board needs insightful information and an agenda focused on what matters to fuel value-enhancing meetings. To find out if your papers do just that, complete your reporting assessment.
Enable faster, smarter decisions in your boardroom
Board Intelligence enables your board, governance and management teams to more effectively plan their agendas, draft their board papers, prepare their board packs and meet with information critical for decision making that drives success.
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