Adapting to Your Organization

This site is designed for those who prepare briefings for colleagues, supervisors, senior executives and cabinet ministers.

Practices for preparing briefings vary widely from one organization to another, whether they be corporations, associations, governments, government departments or even branches of the same department. Despite this, you should be able to apply virtually all the principles set out here — with a little fine-tuning to adapt them to your organization's practices.

If your organization has prescribed formats for briefings, you might have little choice but to follow those formats. The purpose of established formats is to ensure that predictable information is placed in predictable places so that busy people can find it with ease. Those formats should not be discarded lightly.

Whatever might be your organization’s established practices, great latitude will remain for you to take initiative in increasing the effectiveness of the material that you prepare. provides many tools and techniques that you will be able to readily apply in your unique environment.

Furthermore, you should not assume that your organization's practices are carved in stone. In many cases they aren't. The practices that are in place may have simply evolved over time, possibly without a strong rationale to justify them. Or the rationale that warranted a given practice ten years ago may have long since outlived its usefulness.

Look for opportunities to innovate while at the same time remaining sensitive to the needs of those who established your organization's practices.

Using the Site for Other Types of Writing

Some users might never have an occasion to write a briefing for a minister or a senior executive. Even so, the tools and techniques provided here will apply equally when you are just writing to advise a colleague, your boss or your boss's boss. For example, the format of a Memo to the Deputy Minister could serve equally well in many memos to your colleagues or your boss.

In addition, you will find that the principles set out in Writing for Results can be applied to virtually any type of writing in an office setting. Writing for Results provides 312 pages of guidance, and you may be surprised by the insights you can gain from it.

Position Titles in Industry,
Associations and Other Governments

Some of the examples found here are oriented to the Government of Canada, often in the context of briefing the minister of a fictitious department, Economic Advancement Canada. does not attempt to go into details on variations that might be required for other governments, industry or associations. To do so would add to the complexity of the site greatly while yielding only questionable benefits. The tools and techniques found here are readily adapted to other organizations.

If you work for a private corporation, the position of chairman of the board corresponds roughly to that of a minister in the Canadian government. The position of president corresponds to that of deputy minister, and the position of vice-president corresponds to that of assistant deputy minister.

Similarly, in the United States government the position of cabinet secretary corresponds to that of a minister, under secretary to that of deputy minister, and so on. In an association, the position of president would correspond to that of minister, and the position of executive director would correspond to that of deputy minister.

Again, however, the specific titles involved don't really affect the techniques you need to use. The guidelines provide here apply equally whether you are writing to brief a colleague or the president of your organization.