We often help clients engage multiple audiences around the same set of ideas.
I recently helped the head of strategy for a large industrials client to complete a strategic review.
To get sign off on the strategy, he needed to package his findings for two audiences with different levels of knowledge (and questions) about the review: the executive team and the Board.
The challenge lay in deciding what storyline he should use: one for both audiences; or a different one for each? The answer is in the title – it became a tale of two stories.
Here’s what we did. First, we found the sweet spot between his objectives for his two audiences and their needs. We then decided which storyline structure would suit each audience before thinking through what types of end products we needed.
Strategy first – finding the sweet spot
The first question we asked ourselves concerned our strategies with the Board and the executive team. We had to find the right balance between what the head of strategy wanted to achieve, what our audiences wanted and what data we had.
We were looking for the “sweet spot” storyline that would suit our competing needs. Would one storyline suit both audiences?
The answer became obvious – the Board and theExecutive team were in different places. The executive team was already on board with the rationale for the strategy, they needed a deep dive into how the strategy was going to be implemented. In contrast, the Board needed to go on the strategic “journey” through the current state, the core elements of the strategy and implementation.
Storyline structure next – clarifying two different stories
The die was cast – two storylines were needed – but what would they be?
We decided that a deductive storyline would work best for the Board and a grouping would work best for the executive team.
The deductive approach would allow us to drill deeply into the rationale for the strategy and provide a high level overview of the implementation plan, which the Board needed. Here’s the Board’s storyline.
Choosing a grouping structure for the Executive team allowed a deep discussion around action plans, KPIs, resources and enablers for each element of the strategy. This also avoided repeating all of the reasons behind the strategy, which they already knew. Here’s the executive team's high-level storyline.
Lastly, packaging the storylines – multiple end products
Once we had mapped out the storylines we decided how they would be packaged.
We translated the Board’s storyline into three end products – a written Board paper, a presentation PowerPoint package and the storyline also formed the basis of media and analyst briefings.
We turned the executive team’s storyline into an overview presentation aimed at the senior team and also operational units in the business as well as a very detailed strategy document.
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So, there you have it – a tale of two stories. And the moral of the tale is this – think early and hard about your strategy BEFORE you think about storyline structure or – even more critically – start developing an end product.
Gerard Castles is co-founder and Director of Clarity College. Gerard is Australia's storylining guru, having begun working in this area at McKinsey & Company in the mid 1980s. He is renowned for helping clients across most industry sectors to create clarity in their problem solving and cut-through in their communication while having a laugh along the way.