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Write a great white paper

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in Leaders & Managers,Leadership Skills

Strategic thinking might be hard to teach, but it’s easy to compose a memo that burnishes brilliant thinking. To write a white paper on a business issue, organize it as follows:

1. Objective Statement

2. Background

3. Recommendations

4. Reasons

5. Next Steps

This five-step process assures that you stay on topic and enables the reader to understand your main points.

The objective statement summarizes your purpose. In one opening sentence, you should announce what you want to achieve. Example: “To comply with government regulations more effectively, we need to revamp our bookkeeping and invest $100,000 in information systems.”

The background provides context and a short history of the topic to date. This section introduces the problem that your recommendations will address. If you’re writing for a handful of execs who are very familiar with the background, condense this part into a few concise bullets. Otherwise, include some detailed facts and figures (perhaps as an appendix or attached exhibit) to help readers get up to speed.

Recommendations describe how you’ll solve the problem. You can create a numbered list if you’re proposing many action items or simply write a paragraph that specifies what you think should happen.

The reasons or rationale answers “Why?” This section justifies your recommendations so that readers can explain why action is necessary.

Next steps look ahead and solicit consensus on a course of action. They might include scheduling test runs.

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