By Ted Pollock
Properly used, the memo can be a powerful communications tool. Besides making things clearer, memos establish a record and contribute to more effective business relationships. With a memo you can be absolutely sure that a request and due date are as clear as possible. You can avoid lengthy, time-consuming conversations by clearly stating the facts in advance. If the recipient of a memo has questions, he can come back to you. The purpose of a good memo, however, is to preclude questions through careful thinking in the first place.
As a record of your activities, memos can be especially valuable. They are particularly handy when a new person joins your department, for they comprise a ready record that can bring the new person up-to-date on recent developments.
The memo has another important function: Accountability. If something goes wrong, chances are someone “goofed.” This is not always true-only 99 percent of the time. Memos, properly used, thus establish accountability 99 percent of the time when things don’t work out as originally intended.
Rightly used, a memo permits a person to fulfill another’s request effectively and efficiently while taking up a minimum of time in passing along the information.
An additional advantage: The memo can be helpful when you must deal with people who, no matter how hard you try, just don’t seem to be your type. A memo limits that danger area of personal contact, while at the same time giving them all they require from you in a usable form.
Of course, how memos help you get ahead depends on how good they are. They don’t have to be literary gems. But they do have to be clear, understandable, and to the point. The best memos include a clear statement of purpose-why it was written.
Finally, the memo should state what is expected of the recipient and by what deadline, for we all tend to function more smoothly when we know what is expected of us.