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How to write an executive summary for a strategy document

Executive-Summary How to write an executive summary

Writing the executive summary for a strategy document is the last and most important thing to do. This is for strategy development of course. A strategy document shows that you can articulate your plan in a straightforward way. More than 50% of the people who read your strategy will only read the executive summary. It is the part that summarizes your strategy. You must write it in such a way that a reader can become acquainted with the document, without reading the whole thing.

The purpose of strategy is to change things. In orgamatics we hold that a strategy does one of three things. It begins, ends, or fixes something. That something is always a set of rules within which activity behaves. More specifically, it is always a process or a project. E.g., when they broke down the Berlin Wall in 1989, it was a project that ended a process. Breaking the wall being the project, and communism being the process.

It is dangerous to change things, especially if you have never done it before. The executive summary of a strategy document must explain the reason for change. Moreover, you must explain how and where you will do it; how much resources you will use for doing it; how long it will take; when it will be done; and who will be accountable and responsible. You must do this in less than 10% of the document content. So, being concise and to the point is vital.

Below I explain each paragraph that must be in an executive summary.


1. 
The introduction.

In orgtology theory an organisation begins in purpose and stays alive through intent. The executive summary must thus introduce the purpose and intent of the organisation. You must write this in narrative form. Through an introduction, one  introduces the identity and desire of your organisation.

It is the purpose of ABC Pty(ltd) to... Through this purpose, ABC will... The intent of ABC is to... Through this intent, ABC aims to... This document will show how ABC aims to empower its purpose though efficient performance. Further, it will show how ABC aims to secure its intent through effective strategy.

Example of the introduction of an executive summary in a strategy document.


2. 
Background / overview.

This paragraph must put the reader in context. How did this organisation come to be? Where does it get its mandate? Who sponsors it?


3. 
Problem statement.

What is the problem? Strategy is about change. We only need to change if there is a problem or an opportunity. In best case scenario, we change before there is a problem. In orgamatics we see that as an opportunity. In absence of the need for change, no strategy is necessary. E.g., the eco system needs no strategy. Everything is as it should be.  In orgamatics we do an EOP analysis before any strategy session. EOP stands for risk Exposure, Opportunities, and Process efficiency. As method we use questionnaires and interviews. From this analysis we derive at a problem statement. It is often a combination of risks, opportunities and process inefficiencies that create problems. We regard unexploited opportunities as a problem. We resolve this problem when we exploit these opportunities. It is not necessary to unpack the EOP in this paragraph. You will do so throughout your document. In this paragraph you should give a concise description of what we want to address and how we derived at that.


4. Strategic Focus.

We use the EOP to understand what we must work with. In orgamatics we also use the 5V model to create a strategic ladder of goals.  Where vision and EOP intertwine, we create strategic focus. We usually define this through two to four strategic focus areas. E.g., diversification, efficiency, and high impact relationships. One strategic focus area is not enough because it will become a vision. Five will be too much, because it becomes unmanagable. We usually turn each focus area can turn into a myriad of projects. In this paragraph you must explain the vision. Then you must explain which opportunities, risk, and problems have an impact on this vision. Mention the focus areas. Lastly, explain how you derived at them.


5. 
What must this plan achieve?

Here you announce the strategic objectives with their programmes. As with the focus areas, there should be between two and four objectives. In orgamatics, each objective becomes a strategic programme. In turn, each programme will turn into several projects. The approach is extremely specific and defined. It makes execution easy and executive involvement manageable. Keep it short and simple. You will explain the complexity behind the simplicity elsewhere in the document. As rule, we just mention the programme names here. You will list the strategic objectives later in the document. Give a precis.


6.
Structure of the strategy document.

In orgamatics we promote three core sections in a strategy document. In this paragraph, you will give a precis on these sections. The first is a statement of identity and definition. The second is a statement of operational efficiency. The third, a statement of strategic effectiveness. There is no need for detail here. Just explain that the document is structured in this way.


7. 
Method.

Briefly explain the process that you have used to draft this document. From EOP analysis to defining and drafting the strategy. Depending on how concise you can be, you could also add the method of implementation. In orgamatics we implement strategy through project management method. We also engage in a "rolling strategy". This means that we define a super goal for the strategic period, which we do not change. But we can begin, end, and execute a myriad of projects to achieve this goal. We do not force things that do not work, nor do not shy away from things that could work better.


8. 
Accountability and responsibility.

Who is responsible and accountable for this strategy? This must be clear from the onset. The Board of Directors are accountable for creating change. EXCO is responsible for the transformation that this change ignites.

The Board of Directors owns this strategy. Therefore, they are accountable. The ABC EXCO team will manage and execute this strategy. Therefore, they are responsible for it. The ABC plans to execute the strategy within a strategic period. This will begin on 01 April 2019 and end on 31 March 2022.

Example of a "accountability and responsibility" paragraph in an executive summary of a strategy document.


9. 
Envisaged effect of this strategy.

Here you must give a precis of the change that you envisage. You must explain how this ends – in the shortest possible way.

The effect of this strategy is to drive change that will ... by 2022. This document and its annexes clearly explain the ABC's current reality. It defines its future desire and gives a remedy to close the gap between the two. It thus documents the change that the ABC wants to bring about.

Example if the last paragraph of the executive summary of a strategy document.

As rule of thumb, the executive summary cannot take up more than 10% of your total word count. This does not leave you with much room for elaboration. Especially since the detailed plans and EOP analysis are annexes to this document. They thus do not form part of the word-count.

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© 2019: CFT Hendrikz

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