The Smoking Gun Memos - Importance of a Well Written Memo

The Smoking Gun Memos - Importance of a Well Written Memo

Part I: Intro:
Memos in the workplace are meant to be informative and helpful. A well written memo can explain the importance of an issue or clarify a situation. The key thing to keep in mind when writing a memo is who the reader will be. This will help in what information to include and how the main points will be emphasized. On November 1, 1977, a memo about customer guidance on high pressure injection operation was written by J.J. Kelly. This memo was recommending that some guidelines should be sent to customers on how to safely shut down the high pressure system following an accident also known as the Three Mile Island Incident. On July 23, 1985, a memo about the problem with SRB seals was written by BRC/ R. Cook involving the Space Shuttle Discovery. This explains the concerns about o-ring erosion on the space shuttles. Purpose, content, style and organization of these memos all played a part in these disasters.

Part II: Purpose
The memo written by J.J. Kelly had a good subject line; it read “Customer Guidance on High Pressure Injection Operation.” This tells the reader what this memo was written about. This is a very technical memo, and maybe too much for a customer to understand. After explaining two separate incidences about what happened when the system was shut down, there are a couple of new guidelines recommended to customers. The other memo written by R. Cook has a stronger subject line; “Problem with SRB Seals”. This memo was very informative on the problems with the o-rings charring during past flights, and the possible disasters that may occur in the future. This memo is very informative on what was found and presented it in a way that is easy to understand.

Part III: Content
The content that both of these memos set were just as different as the subject matter. The J.J. Kelly memo seemed very mild and not very urgent. In the sentence, “I recommend the following guidelines be sent;” is more of a thought or please keep this in mind as something that might need to be done. This memo doesn’t have the sense of urgency like the R. Cook memo. In the first sentence, it is stated that there is an ongoing investigation and there is a problem that was found with the o-rings. Both memos explain the issues at hand, but both seem to get a little lost in translation. The first memo is very confusing, and the order of some of the content should be switched around. The last part of the first paragraph says, “Since there are accidents which require the continuous operation of the high pressure injection system, I wonder what guidance if any, we should be giving to our customers on when they can safely shut the system down following an accident?” This should be the first sentence, not the last one. It questions the concern if the customers need some extra guidelines on how to safely shut the system down. This sentence is powerful and grabs one’s attention. But by putting this last, the reader might have lost some interest in the topic. The R. Cook memo starts off strong in explaining what was going on during their investigation and the possible cover up by staff personnel. This sentence; “The potential impact of the problem depends on the as yet undiscovered cause.” should be at the end of this memo. At this point, the writer goes on about the budget, suspending shuttle flights, and scrapping material. These topics should be part of another memo. By including these topics, the urgency of this memo strayed away from the point about the o-ring problems.

Part IV: Style
Style is also a very important aspect of a memo. This can show the writers level of professionalism and competence. It is very hard to take someone seriously with lots of grammatical errors in their writing. One example would be the never ending run on sentence in the third paragraph of the R. Cook memo. Both memos had many errors including spelling, missing words and several run on sentences. In the J.J. Kelly memo guideline A) was not a
complete sentence or thought. This shows that how a memo is written needs to be clear and easy to understand. The random words in bold font are also very distracting and unnecessary.

V: Organization:
Organization is important as well. The fact that the urgent nature of both memos is not addressed in the very beginning of each memo is a problem it needed to have an intro, body and conclusion, but the Cook memo really only has a body; it fails to explain what should be done and the time frame with which it should be completed. The Kelly memo has more of a conclusion, but still is not clear enough to avoid a disaster.

VI: Conclusion:
Overall, both memos had lots of information and points to make. The tones may have been different; one more casual than the other. If the memos had been written better by not straying away from the point, or had fewer grammatical errors, the sense of urgency on these matters might have been taken more seriously. The purpose of these memos was to prevent future disasters, which in both cases did not happen. This goes to show how important it is to write memos effectively to make one’s point. However, when looking at the lesser of two evils, the Kelly memo had a fewer issues.