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Example Executive Summary

Below is an actual executive summary provided by a student team. A commentary on its shortcomings is also given. After that is a rewritten version that is “better.”

Example as given by students

In this report, we were given the task to design a medicine dispenser. Our goal was to design with a Human Factors Approach. When considering the design of this medicine dispenser, we made sure to incorporate ergonomics into as many many user groups as possible. Our goal was to solve problems and reduce stress in the manufacturing environment, shipping, retail, end user, and end of life when designing this medicine dispenser.

Our main objective was to create a medication dispenser that was easy to use, ergonomic, and also environmentally friendly. We conducted an human factors investigation on the issues pertaining to common medicine dispensers, and looked for any possible design solutions. We ultimately believe that we have created a successful prototype of the ideal medicine dispenser.

This is, quite frankly, a poor executive summary, for a number of reasons.

  • It's far too short.
  • Too much text is dedicated to process. We know what process was used, because we provided it.
  • There is virtually no information about the design itself. When your “boss” or “client” reads this, they won't have any idea at all what they've paid you for. And yet, that is precisely what an executive summary is for. This includes:
    • No sense of overall performance parameters. Is it a large machine for fixed use in homes, or a small portable device that fits in your pocket? What key characteristics of users and their needs guided the design? What specific “problems” were “solved”? To what extent was “stress” reduced in various environments? What innovative features does the design have? What's its carrying capacity? What kind of damage can it withstand, and still function?
  • There are many simple and easily corrected grammatical errors.
  • The language is very clumsy.
  • There are a number of bald assertions that cannot be believed, given the lack of other information (e.g., having designed an ideal medicine dispenser).

A rewritten version

Hereunder is a much better version of the executive summary for this particular project.

Tornado Team has designed a medicine dispenser called that CareCaddy. There are many types of medicine dispensers. Our review of existing products via eBay, Amazon, and Consumer Reports shows that medium-sized dispensers intended for stationary use in homes are those with the lowest overall user/consumer ratings. We interpreted this as a general dissatisfaction with this particular type of dispenser, and therefore an opportunity to innovate.

Based on a review of users comments left on those sites, we determined a number of shortcomings with existing mid-range dispensers. The most pervasive one was a strong preference by users for non-electrical (i.e., manual/mechanical) operation. Further research suggested that these users were concerned that dead batteries, blackouts, and other failure modes - and the resultant risk of missing a dose of their medications - concerned them deeply. Thus, manual operation became the cornerstone feature of our design.

The CareCaddy can accommodate a week's worth of medication and up to 10 pills per day. Mostly (recycled) plastic construction makes it both light enough to be moved (and operated generally) by 95% of people between 12 and 85 years of age yet strong enough to survive repeated falls from a height of 1.5m. Our goal is that cost will not be a concern to end-users as it should be covered by universal health care provisions. Parts that contain medication are easily removable and dishwasher safe to facilitate cleaning. The CareCaddy operates by turning a crank; the device can be configured on unboxing to work for both right-handed and left-handed persons; operation of the crank was designed to accommodate. The CareCaddy is expected to sit on a kitchen counter, bureau, or nightstand. It has rubber pads to help hold it in place during operation. The design satisfies all pertinent CSA and EU regulations, and we expect it to be both ISO-9000 and ISO-14000 compliant once in production.

Some notes:

  • You really ought to name for your team. It's not mandatory, but it helps build team unity.
  • You really ought to name your design. It's not mandatory, but it helps focus the team's attention. You name it after concept design is finished because you don't really know what the design intervention will be till then.
  • Notice that process is defined only implicitly, and the bulk of the summary focuses on key features of the design itself.
  • All this information was in fact present in the original student project report but had not been distilled into a meaningful summary, indicating a general lack of interest by the students in putting sufficient “polish” on their report. As a result, the overall grade of the report was noticeably lower than it might have otherwise been. What employer or client would want to feel so neglected by their designers?
mec325/example_executive_summary.txt · Last modified: 2020.03.12 13:30 (external edit)