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Title: How%20to%20write%20CDIs%20and%20briefing%20notes


1
How to write CDIs and briefing notes
  • Ken Rasmussen
  • Faculty of Administration
  • January 7th 2004

2
Typically three sections
  • Ministerial Recommendation
  • Analysis Section
  • Communications Plan

3
Components of Memorandum to Cabinet
MINISTERIAL RECOMMENDATION(MR) 3 pp. max Issue
One sentence summation of the question to be
discussed and resolved by the
ministers Recommendation(s) Proposed course of
action, usually derived from series of
options, for which sponsoring minister is seeking
support Rationale Sponsoring ministers
principal arguments supporting the
recommendation(s)
4
Components of Memorandum to Cabinet
Problems and Strategies Succinct description of
(1) possible adverse consequences to the
Government and criticism it might face
should recommendation(s) be
implemented (2) best means of handling of
them Political Considerations Description of
principal political issues connected with
the recommended course of action Departmenta
l Positions Positions for and against taken by
concerned departments with respect to
recommended course of action
5
Components of Memorandum to Cabinet
ANALYSIS SECTION Usually 2-6, rarely 15
pp. Background Brief review of the major
developments that led the sponsoring Minister
to bring the issue forward for
decision Considerations Description of the
non-financial factors considered when drafting
the options Options Thorough and balanced
exploration of the pros and cons of each of
the possible courses of action before
Ministers and of the relevant financial
information for each
6
Considerations in the Memorandum to Cabinet
  • Possible adverse consequences
  • perceived inequities
  • excessive expectations
  • creation of new problems
  • criticisms that the option does not go far enough
  • opposition from a sector of the population
  • backlash if the proposal fails
  • perceptions of waste or overspending
  • perceptions of restrictions to basic freedoms
  • criticism about duplication

7
Components of Memorandum to Cabinet
Financial Information in the MC
Provide Ministers with an understanding of the
financial dimensions of what it is they are
being asked to approve emphasis on preferred
option State all future financial implications
fully and clearly Use the best information
available. Characterize the relative reliability
of estimates (e.g. fully costed, best
guess) Include present costs, incremental costs,
personnel costs Show source of funds if
reallocations within existing reference levels
proposed
8
Components of Memorandum to Cabinet
COMMUNICATIONS PLAN Explains how the minister
intends to present and explain a decision to the
public in both the short and longer
term Properly planned communications crucial to
success of any policy initiative Key Elements
1. Communications Analysis 2. Communications
Tactics
9
Components of Memorandum to Cabinet
COMMUNICATIONS ANALYSIS Public
Environment Succinct but comprehensive
description of likely reactions to proposal
and why Summarise current public perceptions
and sensitivities on issue and identify
national and regional patterns Start
with 1-2 paragraph summary of historical
record, including recent developments
Issues Management Identify two or three most
contentious issues, and indicate how these can
be managed
10
Components of Memorandum to Cabinet
Target Audiences Identify priority target
audiences and major stakeholder groups, both
inside and outside the government Ide
ntify position of each group with respect to
recommended policy Identify communications
vehicle matching needs of each
group Positioning Identify briefly the
primary and secondary links between the
proposed policy and the governments
corporate priorities and strategies
11
Components of Memorandum to Cabinet
Communications Objectives State briefly and
precisely what will be achieved by
communicating the message(s) e.g. Inform
interested publics Achieve public
understanding Stimulate public
discussion Facilitate implementation Respond
to public criticism, uncertainty Messages
Identify the essential idea or set of ideas
to be communicated about the
decision Include those which link the
policy to broader policy and/or which
integrate with appropriate corporate
messages
12
Components of Memorandum to Cabinet
COMMUNICATIONS TACTICS Strategic
Considerations Outline best approach (high/low
profile state/regional) based on public
environment Identify communications
opportunities e.g Interest group
support Identify communications
impediments e.g. Media hostility
Public indifference Identify strategies
to overcome obstacles Identify advance work
requirements
13
Components of Memorandum to Cabinet
COMMUNICATIONS TACTICS Briefings to Members
of Parliament Outline strategy for briefing
members Follow-up Activities Describe long
term media strategy and work- plan for follow
up Describe how public reaction will be
monitored Budget Identify funding and human
resource requirements Evaluation
Criteria Identify methods for evaluating success
of media strategy
14
Components of Memorandum to Cabinet
COMMUNICATIONS TACTICS Inter-ministry
Co-ordination List ministries consulted and
describe roles each will play Announcement
Harmonise short and long term announcement
strategies strategies as to ideal
timing format (e.g. ministers
speech) media strategy for
announcement role of other internal and
external actors Ministers
involvement Assess ministers role in
announcement process Outline public
perception of minister in relation to
policy
15
Key Considerations in Drafting Corporate
Policy-Making Documents
  • Advocacy for decision-making is key
  • Ministers use the MC to
  • describe a particular policy context
  • outline the problem associated with the current
    situation
  • recommend solutions
  • convince colleagues to adopt recommendation
  • Stress relevance
  • Provide only
  • information that Ministers (not officials or
    analysts) require
  • key information, as dictated by constraints on
    ministerial time
  • true and plain disclosure of issue, with
    distinct options,
  • objectively and systematically evaluated

16
The Briefing Note
  • A briefing note is a management information tool.
  • Managers work in a volume capacity.
  • Held directly accountable for decisions with
    little regard for workload.
  • Middle managers at any given time could have 15
    briefing notes under construction/review. Senior
    management can double, triple or quadruple this
    number.

17
The Briefing Note, continued
  • A briefing note is a concise representation of
    the facts regarding an issue.
  • It is critical that these facts capture all the
    salient information for decision making.
  • If the wrong decision is made (functionally or
    politically) because of a lack of information

18
The Briefing Note, continued
  • Writing a briefing note is an art for several
    reasons.
  • It is a public document - internally and
    externally.
  • FOIPOP - Freedom of Information - Protection of
    Privacy Act. It can/will be read by others.
  • You are condensing complex issues into brief
    format, e.g., 500-750 words or two- three pages.
  • You are accountable for its content.

19
The Structure of a Briefing Note
  • Header For whom is the note intended? Most
    officials expect their name and title at the top.
  • Regarding One line. What is the issue being
    advanced for decision making?
  • Background What led up to the need to discuss
    this issue?
  • Issue What is the real problem? What is the
    objective?
  • Analysis What do we know about the problem?
  • Recommendation What would constitute a solution?
  • These are the parts that make up the body of the
    Note.

20
Elements of the Briefing Note
Put in the form of question to give focus Specify
the reasons for the note What is the status of
..? What is Agency Xs involvement
in..? Reflect the nature of the request is
applicable The note was requested by Person X
in the Ministers office.
Issue
Current Status
Provide only recently developed information
answering question posed in Issue Ensure
clarity and brevity
21
Elements of the Briefing Note
Options if (1) the note is being written in
order to get concurrence with a recommended
course of action (2) next steps have not been
decided
Options/ Considerations
Considerations if necessary to outline
contentious aspects of issue -include reactions
from other parties/stakeholders proposed course
of action
Recommendations
Provide if (1) next steps are not clear (2)
approval to proceed is required
What is the department going to next,
if anything? What are other parties/stakeholders
planning to do next?
Next Steps
22
Elements of the Briefing Note
Provide details to the information provided in
the current status section Provide a history, if
necessary, on the issue itself Keep to a maximum
of 2 pages
Background
Submitted By
Identify the name and contact information for the
person best able to address questions about the
issue
23
Critical Steps in Policy Analysis
Components of the Briefing Note
Issue Current Status
Confirm, Define, Detail the Problem Identify
Alternatives Present and Assess Alternatives
Using Evaluation Criteria Recommend Preferred
Alternative Implement Preferred
Alternative Monitor The Implemented
Alternative Evaluate Policy Results
Options/Considerations
Recommendation(s)/
Next Steps

Background
24
Steps in the Policy Design Process
Need or opportunity
Identify
Articulate
Clear and simple vision of the preferred future
Clarify
Commitment in terms of the mission
Clear statement of policy in the form of
goals/objectives
Establish
Choose
Instrument(s)
Develop
Implementation Strategy
Monitor
Outcomes
Evaluate
Results
25
Drafting the Corporate Policy Documents A
Practical Style Guide
  • Use plain, everyday language
  • Use short sentences and paragraphs
  • Use point form wherever appropriate
  • Avoid technical terms, jargon, or unfamiliar
    acronyms
  • Be concise, stick to key points, avoid
    digressions
  • Build arguments step-by-step
  • Rework every sentence until every word counts
  • Ruthlessly cut back, reread your draft, cut back
    again
  • Ask a colleague unfamiliar with the subject to
    read your final draft
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