Depending upon the nature of business, these documents may relate to diverse topics. Such documents may be short or long, technical or non-technical. Documents may cover economic environment, market studies, technical evaluation, court judgements, commission reports, committee findings, annual policy statements and the like. A lengthy document may run into hundreds of pages.
The documents often record and detail every aspect of the study or deliberation or finding in great detail. By their very nature, many such documents have to be detailed and may not necessarily be brief. Yet, not every user or reader of the document has the time and the need to read and know every detail. It is under these circumstances that an executive summary becomes essential.
An executive summary, as the term suggests constitutes a gist or condensed version of the document meant for the benefit of executives. Without going into too many details, the executive summary brings out what the original document essentially conveys. People in executive, managerial and senior- level positions need to keep themselves informed about all the relevant developments concerning their functioning.
If there is a lengthy document with no summary, the executive may keep it aside for a later reading or just flip through the pages and get glimpses of what the document contains.
Either way, the reader is likely to miss the essence in its entirety. Presenting an executive summary ensures that the reader does not miss the essentials. Moreover, when the executive summary is prepared by those who author the original documents or those who are well informed about the contents, they can certainly ensure that the executive summary, while being brief, does not leave out any essential aspects.
Given that there is a tremendous information overload in business, with multifarious reports, studies, thought papers, recommendations and the like being put up regularly, executive summary has become an absolute necessity.
Against this backdrop, nowadays every important lengthy report or document unfailingly carries an executive summary. Executive summary is presented at the very beginning of the document, normally next only to the table of contents.
Let us now look at some useful guidelines for writing a good executive summary:
i. Make the summary brief, sharp and clear.
ii. Ensure that all relevant points are covered.
iii. Specifically cover the conclusions and recommendations.
iv. Condense the paragraph into key sentences.
v. Follow the art of precis writing. Use words that are economical.
vi. Indicate paragraph numbers to facilitate further reference to the original.
vii. The summary should arouse interest and convey that there is much more in the main document.
viii. Good executive summaries can be prepared by those who master the summarizing skills. Good executive summaries are so good that for most users there would be hardly any need to go beyond the executive summary and study the main document.