Pop song writers know they need to hook their audiences quickly.

While it’s true that some songs build more slowly, for example Solid Rock by Goanna, many of the most successful songs sum up their theme in those first lines.

You may never have heard of any of these songs but I think it’s clear that you can predict pretty easily what the song is about, because the first line sets it all up so clearly.

This is because many listeners are not prepared to wait for minutes before they hear the “hook” or the main tune. Any one piece of music is competing with hundreds of other songs and images for people’s free time.

In the same way your boss is busy too. Your briefing note is competing with all those emails, reports, phone calls and letters waiting to be attended to. The boss does not want to wade through half a page before (s)he knows what this one document is about.

The ISSUE heading in a brief is where you tell your reader immediately what this document is about.

To write the ISSUE section answer the question:

What is this?
What is the purpose of this document?

In the examples below see how the first words tell the reader exactly what is to come.

Q: What is this? (UNSPOKEN QUESTION)
ISSUE: Response to allegations in The Sunday Telegraph that…


Q: What is this? (UNSPOKEN QUESTION)
ISSUE: Correspondence from Ms J Smith of 18 Brown Street Artarmon…


Q: What is the purpose of this document? (UNSPOKEN QUESTION)
ISSUE: To provide advice in support of the ministerial visit to…


Q: What is the purpose of this document? (UNSPOKEN QUESTION)
ISSUE: To provide information about…

All you have to do to generate the content for the ISSUE section of your briefing note is answer one of those two unspoken questions and remember your pop songs.

You can do that.

Dennise Harris

1. Not If You Were the Last Junkie in the World – The Dandy Warhols 2. Holding Out for a Hero – Bonnie Tyler 3. Imagine – John Lennon 4.The House of the Rising Sun – The Animals 5. Don’t Look Back in Anger – Oasis

Are nursery rhymes old fashioned?

In a survey last month Bookwatch(UK) suggested that traditional nursery rhymes may be dying out because parents think them old-fashioned or uneducational.

The survey found that only about a third of parents regularly read rhymes with their children; nearly a quarter said they had never done so.

Another survey by the same charity found that the top eight, in decreasing order of popularity, were

1. Twinkle twinkle little star
2. Incey wincey spider
3. Round and round the garden
4. Baa baa black sheep
5. The grand old Duke of York
6. If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands
7. Humpty Dumpty
8. This little piggy

Do nursery rhymes have any value?


They help with counting. (One, two, buckle my shoe)
They help with learning new vocabulary. (Mary, Mary quite contrary)
They help with appreciating rhyme and rhythm in language. (Hickory, Dickory, Dock. Tick Tock)
They form a common bond in a culture between people living far apart and in very different settings.
They are a safe way to deal with scary things – spiders, falling off a wall, getting lost and crying all the way home.
They allow for clapping and singing and skipping and jumping in a playful context.
They encourage strong bonds between an adult and the child.

So keep on singing and reciting those nursery rhymes – they’re fun and they’re good for you!

How would you rate your risk management?

Lehman Bros, HIH and Enron. What did these organisations have in common?

Each had a risk management strategy but each failed catastrophically because the culture did not support the strategy. Culture has overridden risk management strategy in public sector bodies too.

Do you face any of these examples of a culture of increasing risk?
• Strong pressure to achieve targets, leading to cutting corners or risky deals and alliances
• Resistance by senior executives to being given bad news. People who bring this are accused of not being team players and/or pressured to be silent.
• Internal competition for recognition or promotion, which can also stop information sharing across the organisation.

CEOs and Directors are being held accountable for issues beyond their direct knowledge. Risks slip loose due to the behaviour of subordinates. Assurances about the management of material risks can only be credible if there is confidence that the culture of the organisation supports the risk strategy.

If managing risk is not just a set of documents aimed at compliance but is embedded in the culture, then at all levels think about managing risk as part of how things get done around here.

Looking at the graphic, would you say Correct Risk Treatment and Actual Risk Treatment are identical in your organisation, or does the Actual sometimes deviate?

If so, culture is the most probable cause.

Culture is driven by the values set and demonstrated in action by the leadership group, by the practices that flow through the organisation as a result of, and finally, by the behaviours of individuals.

How would you rate your organisation on these points in relation to risk management?
• Our managers lead by example, holding people accountable and encouraging ‘champions’ of risk management.
• Risk is seen by each staff member as a personal responsibility and is also part of performance evaluation.
• Risk management is not just about compliance with legal obligations but is embraced as part of the normal decision making process on all matters.
A consistent failure we find is a lack of any scorecard of indicators that provide regular feedback to staff on how well risks are being managed.

John Dawson is a specialist performance improvement consultant. If you would like more information about the Energy Investment Model or Change Management generally please contact john@dawson-mcdonald.com.au or call (03) 9602 4858.

Quiz: Build your vocabulary – sports equipment

Name the sports associated with these special pieces of equipment

1. puck
2. bib
3. noseclip
4. shuttlecock
5. jigger
6. ribbons
7. bracer
8. spray skirt
9. mawashi
10. pallino

(Answers at the end of this edition.)

Don’t come the raw prawn with me!
This means: Stop trying to deceive me or
Stop misrepresenting the situation or
I am a wake up to your attempt to swindle me

A raw prawn is hard to swallow (get it?).

Don’t come the raw prawn with me – you’ll never have that finished in two days.
You want $400 for that! – don’t come the raw prawn with me – it’s not worth $300!

Quiz answers: sports equipment

1. ice hockey
2. netball
3. synchronised swimming
4. badminton
5. snooker, pool or billiards
6. rhythmic gymnastics
7. archery (arm guard)
8. kayaking
9. sumo wrestling (loin cloth)
10.bocce (jack ball)