By Joe Pantigoso
Joe Pantigoso is the vice president of brand strategy for enterprise software company SAP, a top 20 global brand, and a graduate of the Columbia SPS Executive M.S. in Strategic Communication program.
Do you ever have to brief your boss or other company executives with only a few minutes to do it?
Have you ever found yourself eating up your meeting time, or losing your audience, because you’re giving them too many details?
Have you ever thought to yourself while waiting for the clock to start on your allocated time: “Don’t mess it up”?
I know I have. Quick, effective briefing is hard.
How can you be quick when you know so much about a topic? You’re an expert on the subject, after all. And you’ve given so much time and heart to the project. It’s your baby. Unfortunately, what’s fascinating to you just doesn’t matter as much to anyone else. Plus, it gets in the way of your executive’s input—which is why you’re doing the briefing in the first place.
So here’s a communication framework to consider for executive briefings. It’s borrowed from the world of medicine, where briefing quickly and effectively can actually impact a patient’s life. The framework is easy to remember—an SBAR, which reflects the first letter of each of the framework’s four parts:
S—Situation: a concise statement of the problem
B—Background: information pertinent to the situation
A—Assessment: what you think
R—Recommendation: what you recommend
Here’s an example of how it can be used in business. In this case, getting your boss’s input and approval on how you plan to prevent an escalation to your management.
Another team has asked that we pay for a project’s development and will be escalating the request to management.
Last year, we contributed to the budget of one of their projects, and they think it is appropriate that we contribute again.
First, times are tough, and colleagues are looking for money beyond their own
allocations. Second, the budget-requesting team may not know the rules of the road for project funding—or clearly understand that our partial funding last year was a onetime exception.
To avoid escalation to leadership, inform the requesting team as soon as possible of the rules of the project funding that were approved by management. Also, in the spirit of partnership and collaboration, suggestpossible less expensive ways to develop their project that might be more
within their budget.
In today’s business environment, you often have only a couple of minutes to explain an issue and land a recommendation. This SBAR communications framework, borrowed from the world of health care, may help guide your briefing to get it done quickly, easily, effectively, and with no harm to the patient—in this case, you.
About the Program
The business world’s around-the-clock communications challenges are demanding a new level of strategic thinking. Columbia University’s Master of Science in Strategic Communication graduates emerge equipped with all the essential skills and tools for a successful career in a wide range of communication fields. The program is available in three formats for professionals of varying experience levels and locations: the Executive M.S., for experienced (6+ years) communication leaders (36 credits in 16 months for degree completion); Full-Time M.S., for early-career communication professionals and career changers (36 credits in 12 to 16 months for degree completion); and Part-Time M.S., for working professionals looking for flexibility (36 credits in 24 months to 3 years for degree completion).