You got good at your job because you’re good at the details. But you won’t get promoted beyond your job because you’re good at details. You’ll get promoted because you know how to summarize.
It seems unfair. You’re good at details. Yet, it seems that executives at your organization never want to understand the details. In fact, you’re pretty sure that they’re not reading the entirety of your 10 page memo.
I have news for you, Sunshine: they’re not.
But it’s not for the reason you think. It’s because they’re just as overwhelmed at their job as you are… except more.
The miracle of instant communication means that anybody who wants to send a “memo” to the CFO, the CIO, the CEO, can send one. Good and bad.
That’s a good thing when the CFO needs to hear about potential financial problems and nobody below her in the chain is passing on the message. But often, it is a bad thing, because in a typical, hierarchical organization, it means that they are receiving WAY more than their fair share of communications.
They are, to put it bluntly, the crap funnels of the organization. They tend to receive all of the bad news. They get all of the hard problems from all of the divisions or lines of business that they are responsible for. They are constantly in triage mode, having to decide which of the 100 items that just landed in their inbox warrant their attention.
Is it any wonder they look at your 10 page memo and say, “TL; DR”? (Too long; didn’t read.)
Your primary job in communicating to an executive is to convey the needed information in the most succinct and actionable way possible.
I know that you’re proud of your 5 page project status update, Project Manager Guy. But if you want to communicate that you value executive time, you’ll condense it down to a single page. You’ll convey the general status and whether the audience needs to take action or make a decision in the first one or two paragraphs. You’ll say that you have all the details, or link to a project Intranet, but you’ll separate it from the call to action.
Perhaps most importantly, you won’t even send the update if there’s nothing of interest to that executive.
Promotion past a certain level requires the ability to read people, demonstrate judgement, and understand nuance. Sending an executive summary demonstrates that you understand the pain of the executive, that you exercised good judgement, and navigated the nuances of the details to provide only the needed information.
And this, my friends, will go far better for you in terms of attracting the “good” type of attention than it will if you insist on sending gigantic tomes of information, followed by getting cranky when you realize that your information has not been read.