by Davina | - Finance, - Patterns, - Project Management, - Technology, 2 - Develop your storyline
Today’s thought emerges from the group coaching session we held just before Christmas.
The key takeaway for those present related to the difference between the technically ‘right’ answer and the one that addressed the people issues that needed to be addressed.
Playing with patterns enabled us to tease out the real issue that involved more senior leaders taking on responsibility for a non-financial loss. Here’s how it played out.
- At first, the story seemed superficially simple, but it included a twist
- Playing with patterns enabled us to tease out the real issue and identify the best story
- Merging two patterns together was the best way to address both the practical and political issues
1 – The story was superficially simple, but included a twist
We were preparing a request for Brooke who needed to gain agreement from stakeholders about who would absorb the hit to their P&L if a particular change was implemented.
The plot twist here was that implementing the change was in line with the objectives of the broader streamlining initiative, but Brooke didn’t want her team to ‘take the hit’.
2 – Playing with patterns enabled us to tease out the real issue
So, we played with some storyline versions and ended up comparing two after discounting Houston: Close the Gap and another story which merged Opportunity Knocks and Watch out.
Houston didn’t work because the statement was actually known to the audience. It looked a bit like this
- Fraud will occur when there is an opportunity to transfer funds outside the bank [known, not news so doesn’t belong below the so what]
- However, there is good commercial reason for transferring funds outside the bank
- Therefore, consider enabling the capability of allowing OFI transfers within term deposit widget
Close the Gap was promising and looked a bit like this
- Successfully streamlining customer experience requires us to enable customers to transfer early maturity funds outside the bank [list of reasons aligned with the criteria including allow maximum use of digital channels]
- However, we currently don’t allow them to transfer early maturity funds outside the bank through the online portal
- Therefore, allow them to do those transfers online
The merged Opportunity Knocks and Watch Out was even more promising and looked a bit like this
- There is an opportunity to improve customer experience by enabling customers to transfer early maturity term deposit funds outside the bank in line with brand Z [the statement from the ‘Opportunity Knocks’ pattern]
- However, enabling this new digital feature will expose the bank to greater non-lending losses [the comment from the ‘Watch Out’ pattern]
- Therefore, decide whether to accept greater non-lending losses [the recommendation that naturally follows from the statement and comment]
3 – Merging two patterns together balanced the personal and political issues best
Once we could see all of the potential patterns laid out in front of us, it was pretty easy to decide which way to go.
The merged story targeted the real reason why Brooke was raising the issue. It went further than just saying ‘we should do this because it will support customers better’.
It focused on getting agreement for who will take on the risk that needed to be accepted to allow customers to transfer funds outside the bank through the digital portal.
The leaders were of course then free to decide whether they supported this new capability being included in the program or not.
You can watch the session recording below.
I hope that helps. More next week.
by Davina | - Business Case, - Finance, - Project Management, - Stakeholder Management
A client of mine once told us about her experience putting storylining into practice, and I thought you might find her experience useful.
The most important thing to note is not so much the techniques for getting funding – which might or might not interest you – but the way she thought about her communication strategy to engage the different stakeholders.
Read on to learn how she did it …
Getting out-of-cycle funding for new projects can be difficult, particularly if they won’t immediately add to your bottom line.
Elizabeth, a project manager with a large Australian finance house, recently proved how fully understanding each of your gatekeeper’s concerns and pitching them individually at their point of interest (not yours) increases your chances of getting the funding you need.
Upon receiving a ‘request’ from the industry regulator to improve the way her business was reporting on some of its activities, Elizabeth’s first reaction was to approach the finance team for the $10 million she needed to complete the work.
However, she realised that finance may well say ‘no’ as her division had a heavy balance sheet and a habit of running a budget surplus.
To solve this, she used three storylines to negotiate her way through a tailored, four-step communication strategy to manage the different stakeholder agendas.
Here are the steps she took:
Step 1: Mapped out the stories for her key stakeholders
First, Elizabeth worked with a colleague to map out the general architecture for the stories she needed to take to the leadership team and to Finance.
Step 2: Prepared a story about her communication strategy for her boss
Once these were bedded down – hand written on one A4 page – she prepared a story for her manager to gain his approval of both her strategy and the general content of her presentations to both audiences. The stories and a copy of her paper to the leadership team are available for download below.
It was a short meeting: In 10 minutes he agreed with her strategies and her presentation storylines and also to support her approach among the other leaders.
Step 3: Gained leadership team agreement
Once this was agreed, she arranged a slot in the next leadership team meeting to discuss the budget prioritisation that was needed. This meeting was predictably difficult with team leaders not wanting to give up their budgets, however with quite some negotiation she extracted $2 million seed funding for the project.
She then tweaked the Finance storyline to add in the details stemming from the leadership team meeting.
Step 4: Gained Finance team agreement
Finance was predictably reluctant to part with such a large sum and agreed to allow her to start the projects by running them in deficit, effectively over riding the leadership team’s protection of their budget numbers.
So there you go. That's how she did it.
You can download her storylines as a PDF or PPTX below.
I hope that helps. More next week.
by Davina | - Deductive storylines, - Exercises, Marketing, Recommendations
In this morning’s working session, we took a deductive storyline from being ‘good’ to being ‘great’.
I thought you might be interested in the journey so have pulled out the insights and offered the recording here for your use. As Brooke mentioned, it’s much easier to rework someone else’s story!
We elevated the quality of both the structure and the reasoning by iterating through a couple of versions. Here are the highlights of the changes we made.
The original version was a flow that made sense but was light on reasoning which is core to a powerful deductive structure. Here are the weak points. The original
- Was light on reasoning. The story highlighted the problems and aligned the solution with the problems rather than justifying why this was the right way to fix those problems.
- Was not truly deductive. The story flowed from one thing to the next rather than starting with a broad statement, commenting on that statement and then leading to a powerful recommendation.
- Contained assumptions. The assumption was that fixing the internal problems would be sufficient to regain the company’s leadership position in the market. While that may be a good place to start, that’s rarely enough to succeed in a competitive environment. If it is, however, then that’s good news and worth a mention!
The new version followed a tightly linked structure that was stronger at all levels. The new version
- • Elevated the thinking in the statement. We tied together the two potential causes of the problem rather than splitting them across the two limbs of the story.
• Strengthened out the quality of the thinking in the comment. We felt the original version did not really explain why focusing on the marketing strategy was the right thing to do. While we had to ‘make up’ the data, we could imagine the sorts of information that would be needed and used placeholders for that.
• Put the actions in context. Instead of saying ‘fix these three things’ in the recommendation, we outlined a phased approach.
So, here’s a challenge for you:
- Download the original (visualised below) and ‘have a go’ at fixing it. Give yourself 20-30 minutes to do so.
- Check out the solution below – reviewing the video if you have a chance
- There is one more thing wrong with the original version. See if you can find it. Email me if you do.
I hope that helps. More next week.
by Davina | - Stakeholder Management
Earlier this week I received some fabulous pushback on a project I am working on. I had got to a place where I thought it was pretty good – and ready go to production.
I had received some very positive feedback from a number of stakeholders so had confidence.
Then one key stakeholder landed a real punch.
He called out a number of issues that I had missed and the others would not have known to look for.
I was deflated. Frustrated too because he (of course!) called out problems not solutions.
But I got over myself and spent a day of hard thinking on it and addressed his concerns.
I LOVE where it is going now. A massive step up for two important areas of the work that feed into others.
It is more insightful
It is more cohesive
It is more useful
So … Do you open yourself to challenge? Do you go there by offering it to others?
Go on. Be brave. It's the right kind of hard.
Here are four specific thoughts on how to receive input from others:
- Ask for advice, not feedback. I know I cringe when someone says they have feedback for me. I have to check myself to remember this is a good thing. Somehow advice is easier to accept.
- Ask permission before offering ideas or suggestions. Again, this is about tone and avoiding getting your colleague offside before engaging in tricky conversations.
- Always seek peer reviews of your one-page storylines before preparing important documents. I cannot tell you how often someone else has seen things I plain missed.
- Try ‘how about this' language. Instead of launching in to explain an error, try and step past that to say ‘what if we did it this way?' or ‘how about we do that'? In showing a potential solution your colleague will see their mistake without having to be told.
I hope that helps. More next week.
PS – In the spirit of bravery, I am now working on ANOTHER new project and would love your thoughts.
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