Transcript – A4 – Hacking templates


Welcome back. Today what I'd like to do is give you some hacks to help you get around one of the practical challenges people tell me they have when they're starting to use story learning, I'm going to give you some simple strategies today. And then further on in the program, I'll give you some more specific ideas. But for now, I want to keep it really simple. And just help you get out of trouble as you start to apply the ideas. There are three techniques that I use, when I'm thinking about how to put a storyline into a template. The first one is that I treat each chunk in that template as a separate story. Secondly, I kill the categories by adding messages. And finally, I break the storyline into parts to match the template sections. Now, these strategies sometimes can overlap each other. Sometimes they can be used independently of each other.

Let me work through them one by one, so you can see what I mean. Now treating each chunk as a separate story. Now I see so often, things like business case templates, other templates that I call data collection templates, which are designed for a senior executives to be able to feel confident that the people in their teams have actually done the thinking and thought about the topics if you like, that they need to think about. And so I've taken a couple of examples here, out of a business case template to help you show what I mean. Now the first one there on the left is the category that they've given all the topic they're given is proposal, what they're doing there is giving you some prompts, to say exactly the sort of thing they want from you. Now, to zoom out of the detail rather than forcing you to respond to each of those bullet points, to give you an opportunity to write something really cohesive, that addresses what they're really looking for.

What I encourage you to do is devise a question, and then answer it. So if the if the topic there is proposal, then the question that I'm imagining they're actually asking me is, well, what is your proposal? And then what I'm going to do is come with one clear message that answers that question, what is your proposal, in this case, we propose investing 300,000 to 400,000 in black, to ensure it has intelligent cloud based data storage capabilities. And then underneath that, I'm putting a story. Now, in this case, this is what we call a dw story. If you've got a copy of the book, The SoWhat Strategy, you'll see this example, this specific story example played out at the very back of the book if you want more detail on it. But it gives you a sense of why we're making that proposal. And again, you just want a small number of points to back up that key idea.

Now that principle rolls on throughout the template. So another area there in this particular template that I've taken this from is key benefits planned. So the question I think that's asking actually, is, well, What benefits do you foresee being delivered by your proposal, and then you'd have a single message at the top there, which describes the benefits you see being achieved by your idea in your proposal. And then you'd have maybe two to five supporting points underneath that back that up. So my next hack here is such a simple one, kill the categories by adding messages. Let's have a look at it this by way of example. So I've got a slide here on the screen, which gives some data about sales and competitors. And it's broadly all about performance. So we've got three separate categories there, as titles, now they're not meaningful, they contain no message, no insight, they require the audience to look at the charts, and work out what they're saying, which is rather unfair, because when you put that data forward, I bet you know exactly what they're saying. So it's actually not that hard to describe it.

So here's what I'd encourage you to do. And then top example, their performance, actually describe what the performance is, because performance is lagging behind inflation competitors in the market, suddenly, now I've got a frame with which to look at the charts and interpret them sales, sales growth, point 9% behind market. That's what the chart says, Don't make people do the work. And then finally, competitors, big co performing behind competitors and the market. And there you can see the detail. So just by taking the category and adding a message, you add such enormous value to any piece of communication you're presenting, whether that is in chat PowerPoint pages like this, whether it's actually in a template, or in any other kind of communication, don't just give them a category, give them a message. Finally, for more open templates, I encourage you to break the storyline into parts to match the template sections.

Now I've got a board paper template here for you. And it has a range of different sections in it. It's actually pretty straightforward to fit a storyline into it. Now, you're going to be more familiar as you go through the program as to what these sections are. But I wanted to illustrate at a high level what the options were now, so that you can come back and look at it as a reference later on. So in this case, we have that first section there, purpose and value at stake. Now, I think the context and trigger as we call it fit very neatly into that place. That's describing what we talking about and why what we're communicating about and why. Secondly, when we look at the outcome sought and recommendation, what they're really looking for their results. So what our big idea that answers are core question. So what we can do now within that section also, is add our top line supporting points.

So if a board member is reading this paper, they're able to skim those first two sections, and get an overall view of what's coming, which is enormously helpful. It enables them to prioritize their reading, mostly, they receive a bit of a phonebook full of papers. And I would say the same thing is true for executive leadership teams, senior leadership teams, steering committees, any group, if you can find a way to hack the template to give them an overview, an executive summary of your messaging, right upfront, it helps them enormously, they don't have to wade through loads of background, they can get the general idea of what's going on very, very fast, and prioritize their reading and their responses.

So the next section in this template actually asks for background facts. Now in this case, what we can do there is provide more detail on the context and trigger more history, more detail. Now quite often, I found in this organization that had this template, we'd actually delete that section, we didn't need it. But sometimes we do. In that case, we expand on those, the context and trigger or we might add literally some facts, maybe some acronyms that we need to define, or some some other details like that. And then we get to the first of the top line points. And you can see there that we've got in bold, that message, which if we scoot back to that outcome sought and recommendations area was actually 2.11.

That was the top line point, the first top line point, now we're repeating it as a message. And we're breaking out the supporting story in more detail underneath that. And then over the page, we'll get into more top line points and the supporting detail as well. So that's an example of how we can use a fairly open template that requires a holistic story to fit the different elements of the storyline structure into it. Now I'm deliberately showing you a fairly straightforward example. Sometimes it does require a bit more Tetris if you like a bit more cutting the story up and moving it all around to make it fit. But I wanted to illustrate the principles there for you.

Number one, do what you can to give them an executive summary that includes the context, the trigger, the SoWhat, and the top line points right up front within the within the paper. And then after that, expand on the points as you need to, as the sections require. And you may find you also have some extra sections, which perhaps are a categories, maybe maybe you have a section for risks, or a section for options considered. I see those two, for example being included, quite often. If that's the case, go back to the earlier section, and then look at the category, let's say risks, and flip it into a question. So what are the risks you've considered? And then answer it and then provide the detail. So there you go. Three ways you can hack your templates, and still use storylines. Firstly, treat each chunk as a separate story. Secondly, kill the categories by adding messages. And finally breaking storylines apart and moving them around to match the template sections. I hope you found that useful and I look forward to talking to you again soon. Bye for now.