The term ‘executive summary’ is used to describe a short piece of writing that offers the key highlights contained in a longer report in such a way that readers can rapidly become acquainted with a large body of material without having to read it all.
Its purpose is to highlight the problem or proposal covered, the main issue(s), concise analysis and the conclusions or recommended action points for the reader. Whilst it is presented at the front of the report, it should be written after the rest of the report is completed. It should be able to ‘stand alone’ in explaining the contents of the full report.
Imagine you are writing it to be read by a very senior manager. What would you want them to know if they only had 30 seconds to spare?
Now, read the two pieces below, which one is an executive summary?
1.‘In this report I will give a brief account of the progress and outcomes of my project, including the extent ways and extent to which I achieved my aims, both for my project, my learning aims and my organisation.
I will then review how I made sense of leadership and change issues and decided to address them in my work environment during a cycle of inquiry. Evaluating strengths and weaknesses in the ways that I acted and conducted my project.
Finally I will explore the main lessons and recommendations that I will be taking from my project, for both myself and my organisation about how to manage similar processes of leadership and change - in a way to make things happen.’
2.‘This report examines an xxx project, centring on the development of a charity 5km and Fun Run race, in support of the local Scout Group, who are trying to raise £xxxx pounds to refurbish their Scout HQ.
The event will occur after the xxx closure date, but the report will show how contexts and ideas from the B2xx course have facilitated the achievement of targets, and reflects on the reasons why other aims were unsuccessful.