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Complex Recommendations

Some recommendation memos are more complex. To keep these memos easy for your reader to understand and agree to, it's best to add the detailed information on how the action plan works in a later section, and keep the recommendation section at a summary level. In these cases, the standard memo framework may be expanded to include How It Works and Risks sections as follows:

  • Overview
  • Background
  • Recommendations
  • Rationale
  • How It Works
  • Risks
  • Next Steps


If your Recommendation section is more than two or three paragraphs of four to six sentences each, consider adding a How It Works section, and summarizing the recommendation in the Recommendation section.

The two sections added enable you to easily outline in detail how the plan you're recommending will work and how you have addressed the associated risks. Note that these sections may be added as appropriate, and are not necessarily required to be added together.

  • How It Works: Several paragraphs that outline in logical detail how a recommendation will be implemented. Spe-cifically, this section details who will do what, when, and how for the entire plan. This section is optional and is needed only for complex recommendations.

  • Risks: Two to three paragraphs describing what risks may be associated with implementing your recommendation. This section should usually be accompanied by a brief explanation of why the risks are small, or how the risks can be mitigated. This section is optional and should be used only for high-risk recommendations.


A risk important enough to be included in a Risks section is a threat to the success of the plan that is unique to this situation or significant in some way. The "usual" risks, such as possible competitive response or unforeseeable disasters, wouldn't generally qualify, since those risks are assumed to be there in all cases, and needn't be pointed out each time you write a recommendation.

Suppose in the previous memo example that the sample and coupon program required $6 million more spending than has been budgeted. The Acme brand manager would likely need to add more financial detail based on the test market results and the sampling payout model in order to justify the additional spending. The manager would likely outline the incremental spending and volume projections in a How It Works section, and compare Acme revenue and profit based on implementing the sampling plan vs. not. In addition, the brand manager would need to ask for approval not only for the sample and coupon expansion, but also for the incremental funding associated with it.

A framework helps guide your thinking before you begin writing, and guides the reader through the completed document. This makes it easier to do your job of determining what information to include and where to include it, and makes it easier for the reader to find and understand the information you've provided.

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