I'm fascinated by interesting memos written for an internal audience - a company, a campaign or even for the President. Raw, not smoothened over for PR departments, they help shed light on how people really think inside institutions. These are challenging to find. They typically seem to come into the public domain in one of three ways: through being really old, being part of some lawsuit/legal process or, sadly, being part of a hack. Each of the below are 'interesting' which I define broadly as either the impact they had, the quality of their writing or just helping shed light on how communication works in a different domain. If you know of an interesting memo in the public domain (or you have permission to share), drop me a note at email@example.com.
BusinessMemos from various business settings. I've split out memos from specific companies below when there's several of them.
- Stephen Elop's "Burning Platforms" Elop's call to action to Nokia on how they need to embrace a non-homegrown platform.
- Steve Jobs "Top 100" Steve Jobs talking about his agenda for Apple's top 100 leaders internal event.
- Steve Jobs negotiating ebook pricing Part of the infamous email thread where Steve is negotiating iBook pricing/access.
- Brad Garlinghouse "Peanut Butter" memo The famous internal memo to Yahoo from then-SVP Garlinghouse on focusing more on fewer efforts and having clearer accountability.
- Dave Goldberg to Michael Lynton on the state of the music industry From the Sony hack, Dave Goldberg writes a fascinating, educational memo to Lynton on the state of the music industry. I saved this years ago when the hack was reported on and I'm always struck by how big of a loss Goldberg is to all of tech.
- Jason Kilar on Hulu and content Jason Kilar - then CEO of Hulu - wrote an infamous blog post on the future of content. It was remarkable in both being prescient of how the industry has played out but also it being written given Hulu's ownership at the time. A great read.
- Brian Graden on VH1 and MTV Brian Graden's legendary memo with over 200 suggestions to fix VH1 (he was president of MTV at the time).
- Nathan Mhyrvold - Roadkill on the Information Superhighway Nathan's classic memo on how the internet will disrupt everything. I see this and Bill Gates's "tidal wave" memo and Steven Sinofsky's Cornell memo as related.
- Roelof Botha on his investment thesis for Youtube Roelof Botha's internal memo to Sequoia laying out an investment thesis for Youtube.
- Howard Schultz's strategy memo to Starbucks Schultz's famous strategy memo to Starbucks's leadership.
- Neil H. McElroy's memo on dedicated brand departments at P&G McElory's famous memo which lead to dedicated brand teams at P&G. Also famous for breaking P&G's "one page memo" rule!
- "Completed Staff Work" from the Pentagon in WW2" This is a memo written for junior officers in WW2 but with a introduction by Thomas Watson Jr. of IBM nearly two decades later and shared with IBM employees.
- Jeffrey Katzenberg on Disney Studios The famous Katzenberg memo on revitalizing Disney studios.
- Bob Gaskins on Powerpoint The memo outlining the pitch for Powerpoint.
- Steve Yegge on Google and Amazon platforms Steve Yegge's famous "rant" to Google on how Amazon dealt with platforms. Sadly the original is no longer up after the demise of Google Plus.
- NYTimes innovation report NYTimes's internal innovation report from 2014 first reported on by Buzzfeed and then made public.
- Dave Packard speech to HP Not technically a memo. This is speech Dave Packard gave to HP managers in 1960, from the book "The HP Way: How Bill Hewlett and I Built Our Company"
- Butler Lampson - Xerox Butler Lampson's legendary memo asking for support from Xerox to build the Alto. Most modern computing and the internet can trace their lineage to this single moment.
- Ken Olsen memo on tractors Ken Olsen of DEC compares computers to tractors. H/T to Hal Berenson for sending me this.
- Brian Armstrong of Coinbase with an email to a new PM Brian Armstrong, CEO and Founder of Coinbase with a great email on what it means to be a PM. Reposted from here.
- Jonah Peretti of Buzzfeed on "how to save the internet" Jonah Peretti, CEO of Buzzfeed with a memo on the state of the internet to his employees. Reposted from here.
- Ben Horowitz on "Good PMs, Bad PMs" Classic memo from Ben Horowitz on what makes a good product manager.
Hunter Harrison - How we work
Legendary railroad executive Hunter Harrison's "manual" on how to run an efficient railroad, originally distributed to Canadian National Railway (CN).
- Thoughts on Flash - Steve Jobs. Not technically an internal memo but it's here because a) it's Steve Jobs and b) it's one of the best pieces of business writing I've seen.
SportsSome surprisingly fun memos from the sports world!
- Sam Hinkie's resignation letter Sam Hinkie's famous resignation letter to the owners of the 76ers. Trust the process!
- David Griffin to the Cavs David Griffin's famous memo to the Cavs team when they were down 1-3 in the NBA finals - which they would come back to win in one of the greatest comebacks in NBA finals history.
Government/Political memosVarious memos from government, politics and the armed forces.
- Hamilton Jordan's campaign strategy for Jimmy Carter.
Hamilton Jordan's famous memo outlining what would become President Carter's campaign strategy.
- Sorensen to Carl Albert Ted Sorensen's memo to Carl Albert preparing him for the possibility of ascending to the highest office to the land. Worth noting that they were on "opposite sides", remarkable show of bipartisanship.
- Dupont memo on nuclear weapons after WW2 Internal memo to Dupont employees after the dropping of the atomic bombs in WW2.
- Mark Penn's positioning memo to the Clinton campaign Mark Penn, then working with the Clinton campaign, lays out a strategy to tackle the rise of one Barack Obama.
- Keenan's "long telegram" on US-Soviet strategy Keenan's famous "long telegram" on US-Soviet strategy.
- Zbigniew Brzezinski to President Carter Brzezinski's famous memo to President Carter around negotiation strategy for the Camp David accords.
Microsoft memosDue to a combination of my early time at Microsoft, my fascination with their history and their dominance over tech in the 90s, there's a lot of interesting memos from Microsoft. Collected a few notable ones here.
- Ben Slivka's internal memo to MSFT on the web You can read more about this famous memo here. Sadly Microsoft ignored most of the recommendations from Ben Slivka on how the web will shape app deployment and development. Ben has a great post going into this in greater detail.
- Buffett-Jeff Raikes email Warren Buffet and long time Microsoft exec Jeff Raikes email back and forth on how to value Microsoft as an investment.
- Bill Gates - Tidal Wave memo Gates's memo to Microsoft's exec staff in 1995 asking them to pivot to focusing on the internet.
- Chris Mason - Zero Defects A Microsoft memo from the late 80s on writing code with zero defects!
- Word 1.0 postmortem A post mortem of the development effort to launch Word 1.0.
- Sinfosky - Computing at Cornell This is the legendary memo Steven Sinofsky - then Bill Gates's "technical assistant" wrote to Bill on how Cornell had gotten itself the internet.
- J Allard - Killer App Before he became famous for the Xbox, J Allard climbed up the ranks at Microsoft with this famous memo on how to position Windows for the internet. A personal favorite.
- Bill Gates on Movie Maker Bill Gates's internal memo bemoaning the terrible end to end experience of downloading Movie Maker. I love this for many, many reasons.
- Ray Ozzie on Internet Services The classic Ray Ozzie internal memo to Microsoft on how they need to focus on internet services. Followed up five years later with this.
Facebook memosA few Facebook memos have come online recently. I've tried to highlight interesting memos that don't involve me directly. :)
- Zuck on the messenger ecosystem Mark Zuckerberg outlines how he thinks FB messenger should be monetized.
- Andrew Bosworth on FB ads Andrew "Boz" Bosworth's strategy memo on how FB should approach ads. This is a personal favorite for multiple reasons - Boz is a personal friend and ex-colleague and this showcases his strategy skills. And more importantly, this memo lead to some of my work later on in the audience network.
- Mark Zuckerberg on the thesis for why Facebook should buy Unity From Blake Harris's "History of the Future", Zuckerberg lays out his reasoning for why Facebook should buy Unity.
- Mark Zuckerberg negotiating with Kevin Systrom over the Instagram acquisition I love this to see two of the great product founders of our time negotiate/describe how they think about the world during the course of a historic deal.