The Strategic Narrative: A Better Way To Communicate Change
If you think your company’s strategy conversations should only take place at the most senior level, you could unknowingly be crippling your company’s bottom line. Research showsthat companies whose members have a clear understanding of where the organization is headed and how their daily activities contribute to the success of the organization consistently outperform the competition. When communicating change within your organization, senior leaders need to relay company goals and strategy to all employees, and the most effective way to do this is through a strategic narrative.
What Is A Strategic Narrative?
A strategic narrative centers on a leader’s ability to articulate a clear and compelling vision and strategy for the future of the organization. A strategic narrative is described as “a written and spoken story of an imagined future captured in a ‘before,’ ‘now,’ and ‘to be’ sequence.” Rather than presenting a series of bullet points and clip art in a PowerPoint deck, a powerful strategic narrative paints a picture of how a company’s past, present, and future fit together in a broader strategy context.
Strategic narratives are a form of storytelling, and like all good stories, they need a compelling plot, characters, a climax, and a conclusion. By telling this story, employees and other stakeholders will understand their place in the larger narrative and how they can take an active role in shaping the future of your organization.
In addition, this approach:
Positions the change in a respectful way. Narratives enable leaders to change the direction of the organization without disrespecting the hard work past leaders and employees have invested in it.
Helps leaders appear more human. Leadership storytellingthrough strategic narratives allows company leaders to bring their personal stories into the equation to ensure the messages hit home with others. When stakeholders can relate to you on a personal level, they will be more sympathetic and accepting toward change.
Creates an inclusive environment. Engaging other stakeholders in a dialogue surrounding the strategy not only helps align peoples’ efforts, but also sets the stage for an inclusive environment they can comfortably connect with.
Reinforces company values. By taking this approach, you will drive home the values you want to embed in the fabric of the organization moving forward.
Helps employees retain the information. Telling your company’s strategic narrative is more likely to inspire, motivate, and be retained than a dry PowerPoint presentation or report. And because stories engagemultiple regions of the brainstakeholders will absorb the message and see themselves in the bigger context.
You should always consider using a strategic narrative to help communicate and engage stakeholders in any big-picture discussion. In situations when you might be asking others to uproot old habits or mentalities, this approach can ease the transition.
Inspirational and motivational strategic narratives aren’t made up on the fly — crafting a powerful narrative is an intensive process. Here’s how you can get started:
Invite all stakeholder perspectives. Bring your team together to discuss their assumptions and beliefs about what they’ve seen happening within the organization. By tapping them for information, you’ll gain insider knowledge you can use to refine your strategy and make it more relatable.
Collaborate with your team to create a first draft.Work with your team to outline an initial draft, and seek input from other stakeholders involved in the strategy to make sure everyone’s needs and perspectives are accounted for.
Refine your message. Forming a strategic narrative is about helping the group collectively make sense of the company’s current state and future possibilities. Identify the most appropriate delivery vehicle and situations for sharing the message, and complete a thorough audience analysis to understand their enduring mindsets and readiness. Most importantly, be prepared to iterate.
Measure its success. Always measure and monitor progress after delivering your narrative to determine its effectiveness and refine your strategy for the future.
I’ve found strategic narratives to be an excellent way to help illustrate why extensive changes are important to us as a company.
Source: Chris Cancialosi
Creating A Story That Galvanizes & Rally’s Your People Behind The Cause
A strategic narrative is a corporate story that an organization can understand, identify with and believe in.
The battle for hearts and minds starts with the heart. Storytelling influences how human beings think and behave, we are all hard-wired to respond to stories. Individual stories are more convincing than data…nobody ever stormed a castle because of a pie chart. People accept ideas more readily when their minds are in ‘story mode’, rather than ‘analytical mode’.
The viral marketing of ideas depends first and foremost on stories…for an idea to pass from one person to another it must be contained in something that can be easily transmitted, just as a disease will spread within a human population via a highly contagious virus. A good story is precisely that kind of container.
At AllChange we have developed a number of storytelling techniques that accelerate engagement and help our clients’ model and understand the business challenges and aspirations that they care about, in a rich, deep and meaningful way. Helping them to tell a story makes a huge impact in terms of understanding and remembering it. It helps release emotion connected to the situation, increasing engagement, involvement and buy-in.
We use storytelling to help groups explore issues and make them meaningful for others.
Translating Strategy Into Meaningful Execution
In order to effectively execute, the corporate story needs to thrive across the whole organization from the board room right down to the front-line.
The story must connect with everyone at a personal level. Employees need to be able to recognise their own operational reality within the messaging they receive. They need to see a reflection of themselves in a way that makes sense and resonates. For this to occur, the leadership throughout the organization need to land the story at a local level and in a practical and accessible way.
This means the absolute removal of abstract language, technical jargon and management speak (aka fog factor).
The Leadership Evangelising The Message
To effectively communicate and engage with the organization, senior leaders and front line managers need to develop and hone their leadership skills. AllChange categorize these skills in two capability areas:
1) Strategic Leadership
The leadership ability to personally interpret, own and authentically communicate the corporate story at a local level in a clear, appropriate and relevant way. Helping employees to clearly understand what the initiative is all about, understand what to prioritize and focus on, understand where they fit in the plan, and understand what is expected of them to make the change happen.
2) Cultural Leadership
The leadership ability to engage the organization in a transformational way – galvanising and binding them to the vision. Actively utilising the transformational attributes of role-modelling, coaching, motivation and ideas generation to both galvanise and align to the new direction. Helping everyone clearly understand what success looks like with respect to the required decision-making, way-of-working and behaviour. Cultural leadership is the capability to engage people and teams in order to effectively execute.