Individual Final Report:
Word count and layout
The Final Report should be approximately 3000 words, excluding appendices and references.
The report should be set out in management-report style and include the following sections:
Key issue identification
The audience for the report is the organisation’s CEO.
As such, your report needs to be written with this audience in mind; it should be developed to cover the issues of strategic importance at the CEO level.
The report should also avoid the use of jargon from the course material - the report needs to be written in language that is suited to the audience. What we want to see is that you can write a report for the real-word setting that is well researched, is based on rigorous analysis, and delivers on real-world objectives.
4. The report: Detailed brief
The final report has 3 main components, each of which should receive approximately equal weighing in report itself (although the recommendations section, which also includes consideration of risks, may tend to be a larger in content that the other 2 sections):
The key issues facing the organisation in relation to the identified theme/s.
The outcomes the organisation should seek to achieve in relation to the identified theme/s.
Your recommendations on what the organisation should do in order to address the issues and achieve the outcomes you have proposed. Potential risk and risk mitigation strategies should be discussed regarding your recommendations.
4.2. The key issues: The key issues facing the organisation in relation to the identified theme/s
The key issues should be identified following a thorough analysis of the organisation in reference to the themes identified in the case, and as relevant to the material this course covers.
The analysis work should make use of the various analysis tools, models, and concepts from the course.
When presenting your key issues, it is important to NOT put the detailed analysis in the body of the report – it belongs in appendices. The body of the report is not a place for a narrative of the background analysis work.
What is needed is:
The pulling out of the analysis key issues of relevance to the organisation on which you build your arguments; that is, you need to look at the whole set of data you have collected and identify the messages that come from it – look for themes across the data and what those themes mean to the organisation.
These key issues supported with a concise to-the-point discussion on what gave rise to them form the analysis work you did, including evidence of how the key issues manifest themselves in the organisation.
So when developing your key issues, keep asking yourself “so what? what does this mean to the organisation?” Keep digging and think creatively and strategically.
Don’t let yourself get lost in the symptoms of issues – keep digging for core drivers. Symptoms provide evidence of bigger things that sit behind them. Symptoms should be included in the key issues discussion only as evidence of the issues you have identified (as per point (b) above).
What types of things would count as ‘key issues’? There is no one answer to this. It all depends on what you find when you take a close look at the organisation. Every case will be different.
So a way to lead into this part of your report might be something like -A detailed analysis of the organisation has been conducted in relation to state the themes evident in the case (see Appendices A, B, C and D) and the key issues identified are as follows:…-
From here, you would present arguments as to how these issues emerge from the data and how they manifest themselves in the organisation.
When presenting a report like this to an organisation’s CEO, it’s important to sell your story; to present arguments as to why action should be taken.
Normally when developing such a report, the organisation’s key decision makers, as with other stakeholders, would have been consulted along the way – it’s an important process in information gathering and management of the political aspects of strategic change.
At the same time though, unless you clearly spell out why action is necessary to address the key issues you have identified – then your report will probably fail to gain traction.
So make your arguments for action clear and compelling.
At this point those who will read your report need to be disturbed to the point that they are wanting solutions to the issues the organisation is facing – so your arguments for change need to do that disturbing.
4.3. Options and goals: The outcomes the organisation should seek to achieve in relation to the identified theme/s
Without clear goals, there is little that can be done by way of making recommendations for action. Recommendations need to send an organisation somewhere and it is the goals that give this direction. This is the purpose of this section of the report – to set these organisational goals in relation to the themes you have identified from the case.
When setting goals, it can be helpful to overview various options the organisation might have – the directions it could pursue and the pros and cons of these options. In the end though, you need to nail it down to specific goals you are recommending the organisation should pursue. Do not leave it in “we could do this or that”. Take a stand and back your position.
What these goals are is something you need to think about, but remember we are dealing with things the organisation’s CEO would consider in relation to the themes you have identified from the case. So stay focused at this level.
When developing your goals:
Don’t confuse goals with recommendations. Goals are the outcome whereas recommendations are the specific actions needed to achieve the goals.
If my goal was ‘To be a leading cycle racer’ measured by ‘within 2 years, to be being ranked in the top 10 cyclists in the racing circuit’, then how I go about achieving this is where the recommendations come in (it would be specific things like a certain training regime, entering various races, achieving various time improvement milestones, and so on).
Having a high-level goal statement is fine, but this needs to be supported by specifics; goals need to ultimately be built on SMART criteria – don’t leave your goals in a form that is too motherhood or fuzzy to the point that they can’t be actioned, measured, or tracked in a meaningful way.
You need to present a case as to why these goals matter – don’t just list off a few ‘we should do these’ items – think through why the organization should pursue them and make a case for your proposals.
You need to sell your story – those reading your report will need to be convinced of the merits of pursuing the goals you have set.
Normally, goals will in some way address the key issues you have identified, so this link should be made as appropriate in the arguments you present in support of your goals.
4.4. Recommendations: Your recommendations on what the organisation should do in order to address the issues and achieve the outcomes you have proposed
The recommendation section needs to pull the whole report together.
Recommendations are the specific actions you are putting forward that the organisation should do in order to achieve the goals you have set for it and address the key issues you have identified.
Normally, to achieve certain goals, a number of possible actions are available (if my goal was to travel to Kakadu National Park, I can get there a number of ways: drive all the way, train/drive; fly/drive; guided tour; and so on). But in this report, if you present a number of possible actions (which is fine to do) you need to back the ones you recommend the organisation take. Do not leave it open – put your recommendations up and back your position with a convincing argument.
What is important here is to not just make a list of things to do. The recommendations need to:
Address the key issues you identified at the beginning of the report.
Contribute to the achievement of the goals you have set.
Be specific; do not make your recommendations generalized statements. They need to be clear, actionable, and built on SMART criteria. This is very important. Often, in reports like this one, recommendations are set out as very generalised statements that could apply to any business. You need though to make your recommendations specific and targeted.
So when writing your report, show not just the recommendations as in “I recommend we do this” but also show the issues each recommendation will address and the goals it will help achieve.
Further, some reasons as to why it will address the issues and achieve the goals are needed – you need to back your claims up and there is plenty of material in the course to help you here. So what we have is something along the lines of -I recommend the organisation does ‘X’ add SMART criteria . It will address issue 'Y' because…. and will help contribute to goal/s 'Z' because…..-
All change carries risk – so does not changing. Whatever you put up as goals and recommendations in your report will carry risk, both financial and other forms of risk.
As part of your report, you will need to set out what the key risks are and provide a management plan for addressing those risks.
With your report, our focus is on the quality of the content relevant to the nature of the report itself (its purpose, its target audience).
In short though, in relation to referencing:
Referencing should be used in the body of your report where
(a) statements of fact are being presented (to show the source of the stated fact),
(b) where you are arguing something and drawing on someone's work to support your case, or
(c) where you are directly quoting material from another source.
If you are quoting directly from another source, you need to place that quote in “quotation marks” and reference the source and page number: eg, “have a nice day” (Jones et al 2013, p23) – quotation marks for a direct quote are a must. As a general rule though, direct quotes should be kept to a minimum and you should write using your own words.
When referencing your work, the reference shown needs to be directly linked to the text in question. Sometimes we see cases where a reference is shown that is intended to cover content in two or more paragraphs, or a number of entries in an appendix item. This is a problem as often the reader cannot tell which text the referencing applies to. Normally a reference would be linked to a single sentence or at most, a short paragraph. If the source material spills into additional paragraphs, or additional sections in a table, then the reference should be shown again to ensure this close link between reference and text, or the discussion would include the reference source eg “Jones goes on to describe how…..”.
The appendices, which set out your background analysis work, are expected to have full referencing of the source of your material.
Where this referencing is not done, problems may arise from an academic integrity perspective which could see flow-on implications for completing this course.
On the course Learnonline site, there is an ‘Academic Integrity’ discussion so please check this out if you have any doubts about referencing requirements.
4.6. The ‘executive summary’
An executive summary is intended to:
Provide a brief overview of the whole report so that the person receiving it could read the executive summary alone without reading the whole accompanying report.
Allow the reader to quickly understand the information contained in the report.
Persuade the reader that the document is worthy of being read.
Provide concise, complete, specific and self-sufficient information that can be understood in isolation.
It should briefly state the purpose/aim of the report, and set out all of the key points contained in the report that you want to get across to the reader.
The executive summary is normally about 1 page in length and is normally placed before the table of contents.
The sequence of content of the executive summary should follow the same sequence as in the body of the report.
It is normally best to write the executive summary once the body of the report is written.
4.7. The ‘Introduction’
The introduction sets out why the report is being written and briefly outlines the areas the report covers so the reader knows what to expect.
This will normally be one or two short paragraphs.
4.8. The ‘conclusion’
The conclusion should wrap-up the report; bring it to an end with the key summary points you wish to make, which may include a call to action.
It would normally be one or two short paragraphs.
Concerning the appendices, what is required in appendices are details of your analysis work that gave rise to the issues you have pulled in to the body of the report. This can include analysis work based on any number of tools and models that you think are useful for the matter at hand. It's up to you which tools you use.
Only include in the appendices details of your own analysis work to show depth and substance to the background analysis supporting the overall report.
Do not include items that are simply a cut-and-paste from a web site, or a copy of an article, report extract and so on; these are reference items, not items for the appendices.