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 engage multiple regions of the brain, stakeholders will absorb the message and see themselves in the bigger context.
Crafting An Effective Strategic Narrative
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, Contributor Forbes Entrepreneurs
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. A corporate story is fundamentally about articulating corporate vision and strategy in a very understandable, meaningful and attractive way in order to gain buy-in, adoption and active participation from the wider workforce.
In order to effectively execute your corporate game plan, your story needs to thrive across the whole organization from the board room right down to the front-line. This only happens when leadership at all levels of seniority actively engage their people in a transformational way – through role modelling, coaching, motivating and providing fresh thinking and ideas – all completely aligned with the business priorities.
For the corporate story to flourish, it must connect with everyone at a personal level. People need to be able to recognise their own operational reality within the messaging, they need to see a reflection of themselves in a way that makes sense and resonates. For this to occur, the leadership and front line management need to land the thinking at a local level and in a practical way. They need to be able to tell a very personal and authentic story describing the business priorities using language that is clear, appropriate and relevant to the audience. This means the absolute removal of abstract language, technical jargon and management speak (aka fog factor).
The Leadership Evangelising The Message
In order to meaningfully bring corporate vision and strategy to life – connecting it to daily operations in a successful and sustainable way – senior leaders and front line managers need to develop and hone their leadership and engagement skills. We categorize these skills in two capability areas:
1) Strategic Leadership
The ability to personally interpret, own and authentically communicate the corporate story at a local level in a clear, appropriate and relevant way. Ensuring people understand what the initiative is all about, understand why it is important, where they fit and understand what is expected of them to make it happen.
2) Cultural Leadership
The ability to lead and engage people in a transformational way (aka galvanising and binding your people to the vision). Actively utilising the transformational attributes of role model, coaching, motivation and ideas generation to rally, galvanise and align teams behind the new direction. Ensuring people clearly understand what success looks like with respect to the required attitude, decision-making, way-of-working and behaviour. Put simply we see cultural leadership as the capability of engaging people and teams in order to effectively execute.
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