Strategy storytelling is coming on fast. We think it's the next big thing in strategy and the future of strategy communication. And we are ready for it with our interactive drag'n'drop strategy storytelling site .
Research tells us that strategy understanding is at an awful low throughout most organizations. Present approaches to strategy communication, with their dependence on fancy words instead of plain English, are not working.
You know what I’m talking about; nonsense like a presentation on “grand overarching strategic imperatives”. What does that even mean? Or how about those mission statements that are actually embarassing to anyone listening because instead of being inspirational, they sound verging on delusional; or, at best, so, so trite.
Time to get serious and tell folks a story they can believe in about the business.
To tell a story, you need three things: interesting characters, a neat setting, and a good plot.
Interesting Characters: The 8 Strategies in Every Business
There are always eight roles or characters in any business story, whether it is a hospital or ACME Waxed Paper. And they are always the same characters; although depending on what role they get, they may behave quite differently from one business to the next.
There is Service Delivery, a.k.a. Production or Manufacturing, depending on the nature of the business. Finally, there is Business Definition, a.k.a. "Mission". It is known as Mandate in many nonprofits.
Now that we have the players, we need to understand the roles they will play.
In every business story, there are always three types of strategy roles.
One and only one of the eight characters plays the "leading" role of dominant strategy in any business; the Alpha role.
This strategy is very hard to change and stays in place for long periods of time.
Think Marketing at Nike, Service at Four Seasons Hotels, R&D at Intel, Financial Management at Banks, Risk at insurers and regulatory agencies, Growth at McDonald’s, Business Definition at IBM, and Organization Management in all sole proprietorships.
Three of the remaining seven play the role of Influencers because they are the strategies that most guide and constrain Alpha and the remaining four strategies, which we call Enablers.
For a quick overview on how these strategies work together, think how Risk, Technology, and Growth influence implementation of a typical bank’s Alpha, Financial Management, and its remaining strategies of People, Marketing, Service Delivery, and Business Definition.
A Neat Setting: The Business Itself
For all business strategy storytelling, the setting always starts with the present.
It seems to be human nature to want to jump immediately to the future without understanding the present but that is folly in business strategy planning. How is it possible to understand what roles the characters are to play in the future or how they must change without understanding current state and roles those strategies play now ?
In all story settings, current state means truly understanding which is Alpha, which are the Influencers, and which are the Enablers.
The Plot: The Company Vision
The plot for business strategy storytelling describes where management and the board want to take the company. This is commonly called the vision.
We define vision as a description of the successful outcome of long term pursuit of dominant strategy, the Alpha. That’s why it is so important to understand current state of strategy ; the roles the eight characters are playing now.
A Fairy Tale Ending? That's for you to determine!
We don’t know how each business story will end. That's a job for management and the board to manage.
But we do know employees want to contribute to that success. They want to hear a story they can believe in on how you are going to accomplish that vision. That story will help them understand how they will be expected to contribute. And it is certainly going to music to the ears of the directors.
To give them a story, start with the present. You have to know each of the characters (strategies) in your business or nonprofit really, really well and be able to tell them the role each plays and what each is doing now. Which is the Alpha? Which are the Influencers and Enablers. How do they relate to each other and set priorities and expectations.
Then you need to explain which of the 8 is going to be the focus of the strategic plan over the next 3 to 5 to 7 years. That’s what strategic planning is all about – a choice of one of the 8 strategies on which to focus. That focus over the planning period will pull all the remaining 7 into the supporting roles.
Visit our interactive drag'n'drop strategy storytelling site today and start developing your story.