In our most recent working session we helped Brooke prepare a ‘quick’ storyline. Even though on the surface this story appeared straightforward, it turned into an onion.
The more we layered into it, the more we found we needed to think through.
There were enough layers, in fact, to lay the foundations for at least two weeks’ worth of emails so your weekly emails over the next few weeks will focus on our learnings from this session but of course you are welcome to devour them all right now as well!
Here are the three lessons I want to share with you.
- What to do if you have more than one purpose?
- How to decide if the story should be a grouping or deductive?
- How to slice and dice ideas into a strong hierarchy that resonates with your audience?
You'll find the recording of this working session at the bottom of the page.
Lesson 1: What to do if you have more than one purpose?
I’ll start at the start and share insights from the early parts of our discussion regarding the notion of ‘quick and easy' as well as the purpose.
Firstly, when you become bogged down with questions preparing your ‘quick and easy' communication, slow down. Don’t keep trying to smash through.
We began this working session optimistic that we would help with two pieces of communication, one for Brian and one for Brooke.
However, as we started probing and attempting to smash our way through Brooke’s story it became evident that this wouldn’t work.
Every time we thought we had something right, another question would arise that made us ask more questions.
We may have kept pushing for too long as we really wanted to make time for Brian's story, but it was an interesting exercise.
The eight or so people in the room could all see that we needed to slow down and stop smashing it out.
If you watch the recording, you will see what I mean.
Regardless, listen to your instincts and slow down when your drafting starts to feel ‘tense’ and ‘off’.
Secondly, avoid compound purposes and instead favour using the higher order action.
This single sentence provided a remarkable amount of discussion for what was in the end a fairly simple script for a presentation.
I have attached the four draft purpose statements we crowd sourced in the chat from our call along with my commentary.
The bottom one provided some extra useful debate around the right verb to use.
Did Brooke need endorsement, approval or support … or all three?
We landed on support as it required stakeholders to both endorse and approve.
If she asked for endorsement or approval, then there was no guarantee they would offer practical support.
If they committed to support, however, they would by implication be endorsing AND approving.
So, such a lot of discussion for such a small thing but very instructive all round.
Lesson 2: How to decide if the story should be a grouping or a deductive?
In this lesson, we continue unpacking Brooke's presentation by drawing lessons from our journey solving the top-line story structure.
As we wrestled with Action Jackson and then Watch Out, the nature of the reasoning required emerged as the decider.
We chose Watch Out as the reasoning was relevant to the whole story, not just one section. Let me unpack that for you here.
We firstly explored the Action Jackson pattern
In Brooke’s story, we initially thought we could use an Action Jackson story to explain the impending changes, as follows:
This story structure worked until we learned two important things. Stakeholders were under the impression that all forms would be migrated to the new platform by October. These same stakeholders could cause delays if unhappy that not all forms would be migrated immediately.
In other words, the mini deductive chain under the discussion about the second top line point related to the whole story, not just that section.
So, what to do?
We elevated the reasoning to the top line and quickly flipped to Watch Out
We flipped into a Watch Out pattern to provide room to explain why an interim solution was needed. Here is where we landed: :
We thought Watch Out built with what would be comfortable and easy to agree to. It confirmed that high-use forms would be migrated as they knew before setting them on the path to wonder what would happen to other lower-use forms.
Once they were ‘warmed up’, we could then explain why those other important forms would not be migrated to the new platform as quickly.
Assuming this persuaded them, the natural question then would be around the implementation, which we discussed in the third, therefore point.
Lesson 3: How to slice and dice ideas into a strong hierarchy that resonates with your audience
In this lesson, we look at how to structure the supporting elements for the ‘therefore’.
There were a few considerations here that I hope will help you in your own storylining.
The key takeaway relates to how we slice and dice ideas into a strong hierarchy that also resonates with your audience.
We agreed that we had some choices about how we organised the actions at the end of the storyline (under the ‘therefore’). We could categorize them by type of query, by type of solution or perhaps by frequency of use within the ‘medium use’ chunk.
So, we started by ordering them by type of form with the type of workaround for each kind of form nested underneath, as follows:
Therefore, we propose to use existing systems for these queries
- Access general maintenance forms in system X (paper workarounds, digital forms, redirects to existing systems, etc)
- Access loan forms in system Y (paper workarounds, digital forms, redirects to existing systems, etc)
- Access account management forms in system Z (paper workarounds, digital forms, redirects to existing systems, etc)
This however, proved unsatisfactory was too general and didn’t connect to the stakeholders’ current working processes. They may be left asking “but … how do I do that”.
So, we fixed the situation by explaining how to change their process rather than ‘what to do’. Here is where we landed:
Therefore, we propose to use existing systems for these queries
- Use ‘a different’ pathway to access the same general maintenance system for XYZ queries
- Swap paper forms for the ‘bla bla system’ to access loan forms
- Swap temporary digital forms for ‘this’ system when solving account management queries
Please excuse our creativity around masking specific details … I hope you can see the point lurking beneath them.
You can see where this section fits in the overall story below.
I hope you have found this series of lesson learnt from Brooke's Watch Out story helpful.
I have included the recording of the session below in case you would like to watch it.