Organize Your Thoughts Methodically with a Traditional Outline

In a traditional outline, numerals and letters are used to create a hierarchy of information. Your primary points are labeled with large roman numerals. Subpoints under primary point use capital letters. The next level down uses regular numbers, followed by lowercase letters, and so on. Following the strict outlining conventions, you need at least two points within each category, although in business writing, there is far more flexibility.

Sarah, a director in a health care company, decided to send an E-mail to her team soliciting their ideas for a mandated budget reduction. "My objective was to receive E-mailed cost-cutting suggestions from all members of my team by my specified deadline.

"There's a wide variety of personalities, so I decided to use vocabulary to speak to all four personality types. I thought it made sense to highlight the benefit of being a team player to their individual careers. My Formality Index totaled ten, so I decided to be quite business-like in tone. I decided my challenge was problem solving according to the Matrix of Persuasion because no one was going to want to cut costs. I knew that I had to provide suggestions on how to approach the challenge in order to motivate the team to act, so I selected the PAR organizational structure.

"I like to outline. I'm very methodical by nature myself, so I work well with the tradition. Here's how it read:

I. Explain why they need to cut costs.

A. Remind them that there's a corporate dictate that every department must cut costs.

1. Refer to the CEO's memo.

2. State the deadline.

B. Add my endorsement that I believe we can maintain high quality while improving efficiency.

1. Ask for ideas on how we can measure the effect of cost-cutting on quality.

2. Ask for comments on how quality is measured now.

II. Ask for ideas on where they can cut costs.

A. Tell them I'd look at travel and office supplies to start.

1. Suggest that they look at trends in costs over the past three years.

2. Suggest that they correlate costs to revenue to see if cost increases resulted in increases in revenue. B. Encourage them to be creative.

1. Announce that no categories are exempt from consideration.

- *> ' i* -i a ɧ

I-mm! ilrth ILiOll^hlty DsJte Augusi J 5. 2002 To: SliifF Subject: itudgi'i redualon


As you Knnhv, Larry Usut'd .1 memo stufiriR that all departments must fill <"0s1s hy in jHjTVVJit, This .H-rfish-t he-hoard Uiflatv npeds tn hv Implemented hy September 1 5< r hclicw hv-L' mcfit these tou]rh CMtfuttliU standards without reducing ihu quality id tiur icrvln, As yuu buj^in to think ahiml where U) cut loMs, you shtjuld a|](i evalualt' thi- imparl or ynur decision on qua Illy. Our quality Mandnrds .in-hlftti. and they will reuwln I'-mli.

Take J k>uk al IrJvieL and oil ire supply (dKt lirsl. They're our largest cxpensL1 ItePU, How much hiivL1 Lhi/y lDcftlScd over Uk1 past three ycar&T A& there yny irundj, that ytiilean Identify? AitCM! increases correlated to revenue Increases^

Jim don'i limit yourself. Every expense category should he artalywd wlih in eye tofutllns costs. You miKht even consider combinLhh certain expense ritc^ortt) to xee il there in? redundancies that we can eliminate.

The bottom line is that i^'c in all In lhis together. .As a team. wl> need to demonstrate our support hy Hitting OurCGSU the prescriiied amount in 3 timely manner. Let's-iomu up with creativE; solutions and nr^ariiu a presentation to si'rtl.Of st;bil.



Figure 2.1 Budget Reduction E-mail

Figure 2.1 Budget Reduction E-mail

2. Suggest that they look at combining categories to see if we can eliminate duplications and redundancies.

"By identifying the main categories and forcing myself to fill in the blanks, I was able to generate ideas. For example, the idea of combining categories to avoid duplications and redundancies—I think that's a really good idea, and it only came to me because I needed a No. 2 to follow my No. 1. In the end, the E-mail just about wrote itself." (See Figure 2.1.)

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