To run our businesses more effectively, most documents and reports in our businesses (including summaries, plans, reviews, and analysis) should be kept to one page.
Businesses are awash in information, specifically reports, analysis, weekly updates or reviews, which are rarely read and, even more seldom, acted upon. As an example, the one page Executive Summary is a relic of the past, now replaced by Executive Summaries of 3 – 5 pages or even longer. Such long reports or analyses are time-consuming to write and usually too complex to translate into actionable steps to move our companies forward
How It Works
We need to create a firm policy at our companies to keep all written communication to one page. This requires the writer to edit what they write, distilling their ideas, arguments, and recommendations into the most important few. The one-page memo can and should be used by everyone in nearly every situation.
Restricting memos and reports to one page requires work and thought which usually leads to a higher quality and more insightful product. Moreover, one page memos will get done and done more quickly. Our team is much less likely to procrastinate; instead, they will get the report done timely because… “it is only one page!” Further, the report is much more likely to be read and read carefully. Again, it is only one page as opposed to the 10 page report that causes all of our eyes to glaze over and to be put off to be read on another day. In addition, the constraint of one page means that our analysis is short, to the point, and laser focused on the 3 – 5 key concepts. By focusing attention on the 3 – 5 key ideas, any discussion will be concentrated on these points leading to more robust dialogue. It will also be easier to put those 3 – 5 concepts into action and ensure that they will actually get done. This, of course, helps improve our businesses leading to greater profit.
Each of us needs to take the plunge and insist that all reports and memos in our companies are kept to one page. To ensure that the idea of a one-page memo is implemented, we also need to have the discipline to return (unread) any reports that are longer than one page.