I’ve reviewed a couple of Executive Summaries for clients in different sectors lately. Both were well-written; they sought to restate the customer’s requirements succinctly, showing real insight, and they presented their respective organisations’ capabilities persuasively. Yet both fell short, for different reasons.
I was concerned. The list felt very “me too”: could I imagine a competitor submitting a proposal describing their non-compliant approach, delivered by an inexperienced bunch of recent graduates with little senior support, costing the earth?
But what really worried me was the lack of flow through into the remainder of the document. I applied a simple test, by searching on the key phrases from the stated ‘themes’. Lo and behold, they were notable by their absence. In nigh on 150 pages, the first mention of cost effectiveness came on page 127, and then only in an aside whilst discussing training. Management ‘commitment’ wasn’t referred to at all after the Executive Summary.
It seemed clear that the Executive Summary had been written after the fact, without a coherent overall vision for the proposal – rather like an artist painting a delicate watercolour of an eighteenth century rural scene, only to decide at the last moment to add in a pencil sketch of a spaceship in the far corner.
The second document fell into a slightly different trap. It was extremely well-written, creating empathy, offering great proof points and showing real differentiation. I fired through a few comments to the team, suggesting minor tweaks here and there. And then, not long after, I followed up with a second note on reflection:
By the way, do your three or four win themes really come through in this? There’s lots about the cool stuff you’ll do, but I’m not sure that the messages are quite as memorable as they might be. (Put another way, ten minutes on, I can’t remember what your themes are!).