What is the SCQA Framework?
The SCQA framework is a communication method that is especially effective in business writing and when communicating complex information to an audience. SCQA makes it easier to structure information in a way that is simple for the reader or audience to understand.
Barbara Minto, who popularized this framework in her book The Pyramid Principle, says you have to earn your reader’s attention. To build their interest in what you are telling them, it needs to tell a story, and every story has a beginning, middle and end.
This method is most effective when used in business writing and consultancy reports, because it is simple for the reader to follow along, and it removes the redundant and unnecessary jumble.
SCQA is an abbreviation for situation, complication, question, and answer. Let’s go over each element with a little more depth.
Situation: This is your starting point, where you will communicate the context or baseline knowledge one should have, before understanding the complication. It's the background knowledge that somewhat explains how the problem came about. The situation usually relates to the stability of the state of the world or situation.
Complication: The complication is where you state what has changed, and why it's important to act now. This section may reveal threats or opportunities as well as obstacles that may need to be overcome. The complication will state why this business writing is necessary.
Question: The exact problem that is trying to be solved should be explicitly stated. The question should ask how the obstacles from the complication can be overcome.
Answer: The answer should explain the solution to the problem, and what the next steps are from here. The answer should also explain how this will help optimize opportunities and weaken threats.
The Minto Pyramid Principle
As mentioned above, the SCQA framework was introduced by Barbara Minto in her book, The Pyramid Principle. This book primarily focuses on another effective communication method called the Minto Pyramid.
The Minto Pyramid is a highly effective communication mechanism, not only in business and case competitions but in real life as well. It allows you to organize communication and thinking efficiently, starting with your answer, summarizing your recommendations and key points, and providing data and reasoning to support the key points.
This principle is a tool to give your communication more clarity and efficiency. It allows you to synthesize information, find gaps in analysis and communicate big ideas.
To learn more about this specific framework, check out our blog post on the Minto Pyramid Principle.
SCQA Example 1
Let’s go over a simple example of the SCQA framework, regarding the expansion of a University's Housing.
Situation: The University is looking to expand its student housing, by building a new residence building.
Complication: They need to decide where to build the new residence building.
Question: Where should the University open its new residence building?
Answer: The University should take down one of its older buildings and build a brand new and taller residence that will fit double the students.
SCQA Example 2
Let's look at an example that a business would be sent out via email to the customers who are subscribed to the monthly newsletter. Your company wants to share the new types of milk that you are now selling (including oat, almond, cashew, soy and coconut.) Using the SCQA framework, your email might look something like this:
Situation: From topping off your cup of coffee to complementing your breakfast cereal, it's always good to have some milk in the fridge.
Complication: The unfortunate thing is that regular dairy milk doesn’t meet everyone's dietary and personal needs.
Question: Wouldn’t you like to have more variety when it comes to choosing which type of milk you drink?
Answer: Well, in addition to regular dairy milk we are now offering all sorts of plant milk, including oat, almond, cashew, soy and coconut!
The purpose of the SCQA framework is to structure information in a compelling way that is interesting and captures the reader's attention. This four-step method can help you communicate your message concerning the existing situation, what the problem is, ask important questions, and then present a solution.
This method is most effective in business writing and email because the information is formatted so that the reader can understand the text and agree with the message.
Similar to the Minto Pyramid Principle, this framework acts as an effective communication method in business and important conversations. Not only that but it also allows you to fully understand what you are trying to communicate, before addressing anyone else.
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