I was working with a group of leaders at an insurer this week and we stumbled across a common challenge that I thought you may also relate to.
Those of you who aren't up to deductive structures yet, don't fret: there's something here for you too.
The nub of this challenge centres around how we differentiate between what to include in an introduction versus the statement and comment within a deductive flow.
Let me first explain the relevant principles and then offer the story to put the theory into practice.
The principles: knowing what needs to be known versus news helped us decide what to put where
The two different storyline elements that we needed to work with were:
- The introduction (the context, trigger and question or CTQ), which contains information that should be known to the audience and sets that audience up to ask a question we want to answer with our So What.
- A deductive storyline (a statement and comment leading together to a single recommendation), which contains information that is not known to your audience and persuades them that our recommendation is the right one.
The question then is how these two principles helped us sort out what to put where in the storyline.
The story: knowing simple storylining principles shifts the whole communication strategy, not just the words conveyed
First, I'll introduce the situation and then I'll outline the before and after storylines along with the epiphany that led to the shift from one to the other.
The situation …
We were discussing a stakeholder engagement strategy concerning a digital strategy. As with many a new strategy, stakeholder engagement can be as central to the strategy's success as the strategy itself.
In this situation, a new very hands-on CEO was in place and the team realised they needed to engage her in the early thinking behind the strategy before going any further, even though this meant going back in time from their perspective.
Their conclusion was that if they didn't, she would derail all of their work.
The deductive draft based on a Houston we have a problem pattern …
We started with patterns and then mapped out a Houston pattern which I have paraphrased:
Statement – Despite strong business and technology capabilities, we don’t have a cohesive digital strategy (supported by evidence)
Comment – However, aligning around a vision for the digital channel is essential if that strategy is to succeed (supported by explaining why this is essential in an unusually ambiguous and complex org arrangement)
Recommendation – As a result, we need to align around a vision for the digital channel (supported with steps for gaining alignment)
The epiphany that led to the change in structuring …
After drafting this, two epiphanies occurred:
- They didn't need general alignment across the organisation, but rather specific alignment with the new CEO who could then drive further alignment in the organisation.
- The idea that any kind of alignment around the strategy was needed was obvious to the two leaders who were to be part of the discussion, and so not news to them
It is interesting to me that reading this now, these conclusions seem pretty obvious. In the moment, though, the circumstances were so convoluted and messy because of the organisation ambiguity, that they felt like real insights.
The revised storyline to support a discussion with two leaders …
As a result, our statement and comment for a presentation quickly became the introduction for a conversation (not a document) as follows:
Context – Despite strong business and technology capabilities, we don’t have a cohesive digital strategy. Aligning around both the vision and the strategy for digital is essential to the strategy's success (no evidence needed: this was known by all).
Trigger – We have a suggestion for a way to gain alignment around the digital strategy.
Audience question – What's your suggestion?
So What – We recommend you (the two leaders in the discussion) meet with the new CEO to engage her in three potential options before we go further.
Supporting points –
Here's why we think that is the way to go:
- Her track record suggests that she is very hands on and is unlikely to support any initiative that she has not been involved in designing
- She has a vested interest in this area, heightening the need to involve her directly and soon
- Even though we are well progressed, going back in time to engage her in our foundational thinking around the options will enable her to contribute, allows us to incorporate her thinking and reduces the risk that all of our work will be junked
I hope that's useful and look forward to sharing more ideas with you in next week's email as well as in our regular Tuesday sessions.
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