Blog

Writing about risk in a board paper

Directors care about risk because if things go wrong, the consequences can be dramatic and long-lasting. Just think about the impact of the Australian census website crashing on census night, and the fallout from VW’s emission failure. All organisations share some...

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Writing a background section in a board paper

The background statement in a board paper is often seen as the easiest section of a paper to write because the information is factual and historical. But when you look more closely into what’s required in a background section, it’s not as easy as it seems. The main...

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‘Concise’ is often over-emphasised in board reporting

By Mary Morel | July 2016 Everyone wants to read concise board reports and papers, but lately I have noticed an over-emphasis on length as a criterion. For instance, I have heard about one board telling management to reduce its board pack by two-thirds, and another...

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Summaries in decision-making board papers

By Mary Morel | June 2016 Most board papers are short and some people argue that a summary is not necessary. I like a summary in a decision-making board paper because it lets me know what the paper is about and why the recommendation matters. (Most recommendations are...

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What does ‘write for your audience’ mean?

By Mary Morel | May 2016 A basic catchcry of business-writing articles and training is ‘write for your audience’. Yet what does this mean in practice? I don’t think this is as straightforward as it sounds and I am going to look at this question from my own experience...

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How to write a recommendation in a board paper

There are two aspects to writing board paper recommendations: what you say and how you say it, i.e. styles. Content of board paper recommendations Most organisations have two types of papers – decision and noting (information). Some have discussion papers as well, and...

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Why I don’t like purpose statements in board papers

I am not a fan of purpose statements in board papers because they are unnecessary and cover information that is not strictly speaking a purpose. With a noting (information) paper, it is obvious the purpose of the paper is to inform. With a decision paper, the...

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Writing in the third person in board papers

By Mary Morel | 27 October 2015 In formal business writing, such as board papers and business cases, most writing guidelines encourage writers to use the third person. The third person uses ‘he’, ‘she’, ‘it’ or ‘they’, but because business documents are impersonal,...

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Writing standards for clear board communication

By Dana Skopal, PhD | 14 June 2015 As discussed previously by Mary Morel, Standards Australia has developed a standard for board reporting. These standards cover both reporting responsibilities and presenting information. Whether you are reporting or presenting, the...

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Whole-of-organisation focus for board papers

By Mary Morel | 26 May 2015 Board papers must be written from a whole-of-organisation perspective. Too often writers write from the perspective of their own team or division, and fail to consult with other stakeholders within the organisation. Such papers do not...

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