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How to write CDIs and briefing notes. Ken Rasmussen Faculty of Administration January 7 th 2004. Typically three sections. Ministerial Recommendation Analysis Section Communications Plan. Components of Memorandum to Cabinet. MINISTERIAL RECOMMENDATION(MR) 3 pp. max

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How to write cdis and briefing notes l.jpg

How to write CDIs and briefing notes

Ken Rasmussen

Faculty of Administration

January 7th 2004

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Typically three sections

  • Ministerial Recommendation

  • Analysis Section

  • Communications Plan

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Components of Memorandum to Cabinet


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 minister’s principal arguments supporting the recommendation(s)

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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

Departmental Positions Positions for and against taken by concerned departments with respect to recommended course of action

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Components of Memorandum to Cabinet


Usually 2-6, rarely 15 pp.

BackgroundBrief 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

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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

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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

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Components of Memorandum to Cabinet


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

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Components of Memorandum to Cabinet


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

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Components of Memorandum to Cabinet

Target Audiences Identify priority target audiences and major stakeholder groups, both inside and outside the government

Identify 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 government’s corporate priorities and strategies

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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

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    Components of Memorandum to Cabinet


    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

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    Components of Memorandum to Cabinet


    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

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    Components of Memorandum to Cabinet


    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. minister’s speech)

    media strategy for announcement

    role of other internal and external actors

    Minister’s involvement Assess minister’s role in announcement process

    Outline public perception of minister in relation to policy

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    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

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    The Briefing Note Documents

    • 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.

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    The Briefing Note, Documentscontinued

    • 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………

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    The Briefing Note, continued Documents

    • 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.

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    The Structure of a Briefing Note Documents

    • 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.

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    Elements of the Briefing Note Documents

    Put in the form of question to give focus

    Specify the reasons for the note

    What is the status of …..?

    What is Agency X’s involvement in..?

    Reflect the nature of the request is applicable

    The note was requested by Person X in the

    Minister’s office.


    Current Status

    Provide only recently developed information

    answering question posed in Issue

    Ensure clarity and brevity

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    Elements of the Briefing Note Documents

    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



    Considerations if:

    necessary to outline contentious aspects of issue

    -include reactions from other parties/stakeholders

    proposed course of action


    Provide if :

    (1) next steps are not clear

    (2) approval to proceed is required

    What is the department going to next, if


    What are other parties/stakeholders

    planning to do next?

    Next Steps

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    Elements of the Briefing Note Documents

    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


    Submitted By

    Identify the name and contact information for the

    person best able to address questions about the issue

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    Critical Steps in Policy Documents


    Components of the

    Briefing Note


    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



    Next Steps


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    Steps in the Policy Design Process Documents

    Need or opportunity



    Clear and simple vision of the preferred future


    Commitment in terms of the mission


    Clear statement of policy in the form of goals/objectives




    Implementation Strategy





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    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