Assignment: case study – executive briefing

Executive Briefings are brief synopses (summaries) of the key issues on a particular topic. For this Assignment (Case Write-up #1), your task is to provide an executive briefing for the scenario presented below.

Brevity and clarity are highly desired aspects of an executive briefing, and they should be no more than two single-spaced pages (shorter can certainly be OK as well…just make sure you’ve hit the issues and clearly explained them). They should look highly professional, which also means they need to be easily understood by a hypothetical executive who is looking at this briefing quickly and needs to get caught up to speed on the main ideas, decision possibilities, and proposed outcome(s). Bullets and lists are fine, and feel free to use whatever formatting you think looks the best. In other words, these should not be written like a research paper.  This executive briefing should have 3 components, each with its own heading: Key Issues, Possible Solutions, and Summary/Recommendation.

  1. Key Issues – which includes a descriptions of the key issues and/or problems, and any other information that is relevant to the framing or understanding of the problem. Make sure that you also go beneath the surface here and include the non-obvious issues alongside the obvious. In other words, what issues/problems might (or are likely to be underlying the observed issues — what are the real issues here?)   
  2. Possible Solutions – which includes several different solutions or actions that could be taken, how easy/difficult they would be to implement, and general expected time frames for each solution to be implemented and to get results. Obviously, the time frame and ease of implementation are estimates, but they should be reasonable estimates of the relative difficulty/time-frames of the various solutions you are proposing.
  3. Summary/Recommendation – which highlights the one or two solutions that you think are the best options among the possible solutions you outlined in Section 2 (Possible Solutions). This should be no more than a few sentences and should also include the projected benefit of your recommendation. 

eBTech
Presume that it is present day, March 2019. About six weeks ago, you were hired as an HR Sr. Manager at eBTech – a 5-year old software company. And today you find yourself in a one-on-one meeting with Quinetta Delgado, the Chief Operating Officer of the company. Quinetta has heard through the grapevine that you are a solid performer (well – actually she heard you are a superstar!). Quinetta is great at her specialty, operations – but doesn’t seem to be particularly well-versed or savvy when it comes to people issues. During the meeting, she says “I think we have a serious problem with motivation throughout our organization, but particularly among the engineers who are designing our core software product. As you know – we’re betting the future of the company on this new product. But it seems that they don’t get it – they don’t really care and aren’t willing to push hard to finish this product – and in order for this product to launch soon and successfully, they’re going to have to really put in some serious time and effort to make it happen. Right now all I hear from them is excuses. I mean, if this doesn’t go right, it’s possible that none of us will have jobs in 3-4 months.”

She then pauses for a moment before saying — “I know you might have some good thoughts on this – can you prepare an Executive Briefing for me on this issue?” After agreeing to provide the briefing, an urgent call arrives and she asks you to leave her office. You scratch your head for a few moments and wonder how you can deliver something of value to her, and to the company. Unfortunately you don’t have much background information, other than a few things – you know there’s recently been a lot of turnover in the software engineering group since a well-liked Senior Director left for a competitor and took several people with him. You also know that the CFO has recently sent out a memo that each department needs to carefully monitor expenses – which sounds perhaps like the company may be running low on cash.

Your analysis can and should make reasonable assumptions (I know I’m not providing you with all of the details you might have in “real life” – but in real life you also often have to make assumptions, and you often don’t have all of the information). Your possible solutions and recommendation can thus make a few presumptions, but should be reasonable and actionable. This briefing is likely to be used by Quinetta (and other company executives), and action might be taken based on your recommendations.

Think also about the (in)appropriate use of too much jargon for your audience and also consider carefully that the “presenting problem” may not be the actual problem or may only be part of the actual problem. In other words Quinetta mentioned the word “motivation” but that word can mean a lot of different things and clearly is not the whole issue– That’s where your expertise and ideas and processes, etc. come in. 

You will be graded on the style, clarity, and content of your briefing. Keep in mind that your solutions should be appropriate given the situation at hand.
Evaluation

Total Points: 30.  Points will be assigned based on the following:

  • Style and Clarity: 10 points –
  • Criteria: Information is laid out clearly and is professionally presented. Briefing is free from grammatical and spelling errors and is stylistically professional. Briefing minimizes “extra” unnecessary information and ideas that might act as distractions. Briefing balances the need for brevity with need for adequate coverage of components. Different components of the report (Key Issues, Possible Solutions, and Recommendation(s)) are clearly identified. 
  • Content: 20 points –
  • Criteria: Accurate and insightful framing of key issues surrounding the problem, possible solutions are creative and demonstrate divergent thinking (consider a divergent set of solutions which show understanding of ways to tackle the problem from multiple angles), recommendation(s) are based on reasonable assumptions. Briefing minimizes technical jargon or is free from jargon that the audience may not easily understand. Solid recommendations are potentially implementable, are likely to be useful, and show good use of organizational resources. If your best idea is to throw a party for the engineers to boost morale – Quinetta is unlikely to continue thinking that you are a rockstar. Briefing appears to be based on reasonable and practical assumptions.
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