Insight from recent graduate of the Harvard Kennedy School National Security Fellow Program, Lieutenant Colonel Edward Figueroa

Edward Figuero Cropped

What is your current title and your most recent title as a policy practitioner?

Recent graduate of the National Security Fellow program at Harvard Kennedy School. My follow on assignment will be in Stuttgart, Germany serving at U.S. European Command as the Branch Chief of the Eurasia Branch. Prior to HKS a was assigned to U.S. Southern Command and served as the Executive Officer to the Deputy Combatant Commander.

In your opinion, what are one or two key elements of strong policy writing. 

The product must be clear and concise. It must stand alone and speak for itself. Real decisions are made in small groups of senior leaders, and your products must tell the story for you, as you likely wont be in the room. Finally, prior to the decision, you must clearly communicate the product to the boss. You are not only answering the original question, but you are equipping the boss to explain to other bosses. When you submit a product, you are staking your professional reputation on it and you have to get it right to succeed.

If you were to give advice to a student or rising policy analyst, what would you say are the best practices of policy writing?

You will frequently write documents “for” your boss, but as you gain experience and trust, you will likely be called to write “as” your boss. The construction of “ghost notes” or “tear-line” emails will be routine part of your day. You have to listen to not only what your boss says, but how they say it. Understanding the larger narrative of the organization and your specific leader is essential and any specific artifacts they would normally include will be expected.