The executive summary includes the introduction (the context, trigger and question) as well as the answer and an overview of your whole story.
It is particularly useful for providing a roadmap for the reader in documents that are half a page or longer. Providing a snapshot of the story that matches the structure of the document provides them with a high level perspective of what is to come, reminds them why they should read on and also helps them decide how to read on. For example, if they know a lot about one or two sections of the story they know instantly that they can skim these and dig into the parts that are new or intriguing.
Here is an example of an executive summary to show you what we mean:
(Context) BigCo has been exploring ways to build its business outside Australia and (trigger) the exec team has identified three high potential options for the board to review.
(Implied question: What are they?)
- Build on existing relationships across Asia Pacific to find new customers for our Australian-designed and manufactured goods
- Contract with manufacturers in Asia Pacific to manufacture Australian-designed products that we can then market to Asian, European and American markets
- Partner with SmartCo to manufacture and distribute Australian designed goods globally
The strengths and weaknesses of each of these options will now be discussed in turn. (These three points now form the headings for the sections in the body of the document).