In effective communication, less is often more. Brevity can communicate ideas more clearly.
P&G’s corporate culture requires any idea or proposal to fit onto one side of one piece of paper and must follow a predictable format. According to Charles Decker’s excellent book Winning with the P&G 99, the one-page memo consists of the following narrative elements:
- Statement of Purpose: An introductory sentence that concisely and succinctly states the reason for the recommendation. Provides a context for the memo as a whole.
- Background: Factual analysis that connects the purpose of the memo to the strategic objectives of the company or the brand. Also provides facts in relation to the problem the recommendation is supposed to address.
- Recommendation: The specific proposal on how to solve the problem or exploit the opportunity detailed in the background section.
- Rationale: The reasons for the recommendation, and the logic by which the recommendation was reached.
- Discussion: Details of the recommendation, anticipated questions or areas of concern, risk assessment, identification of other alternatives, details of the recommendation.
- Next Steps: Who will be following through on the recommendation, what target dates they would be working towards, what actions they would be taking to execute the recommendation.
- Supporting Exhibits: Other supplementary information as applicable.
The last item, the supporting exhibits, provides additional data to validate the rest of the one-page memo.
Charles Decker states, “If you can learn to write a P&G memo, you can learn how to think. The memo becomes a knowledge codification tool, a way to present ideas, arguments, and recommendations in a language and style everyone at P&G understands.”
Winning with the P&G 99 also quotes an advertising agency executive: “P&G seems to have figured out that if you structure information certain ways, people will readily understand it, good ideas will emerge, and bad ideas will be exposed. I really think that is what has made them so successful. They make fewer mistakes because they find mistakes before they happen.”
Additionally, P&G’s renowned salesforce uses a Persuasive Selling Format (PSF) narrative that is structured along similar lines.