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As you stand in front of your team about to tell the story of your strategy, you want to be sure that the message gets across.  That is the essence of “Communicating Strategy”.  You want to have thought through how you will construct and tell the story of your strategy so it comes to life.

How you start, determines what gets paid attention to

An important part of that is how you start, and how you make the message stick.

I rarely introduce myself first.  I often start my presentations with stories. (Introducing myself after the story).  Example stories I have used include:

  • “The Sesame Street Connection” for strategic balanced scorecard presentations.
  • The “The Deer and Rabbits” story for strategy presentations,
  • “Performance management does not exist” to set up the decision making story.
  • “You can strategically add strategy to any strategic sentence….” for strategy explanations.

These stories work in different ways, for different effects

The Sesame street story works on curiosity and intrigue (Why on earth is he showing a picture of the sesame street characters?).  The story leads to a simple but vital principles that changes how people think about Balanced Scorecards.  It is a literal and true story, that sets me up as someone with rare inside knowledge.

The Deer and rabbits story lines up a collection of thoughts about collaboration, priorities, trust, teamwork and choosing what to focus on.  This story is more metaphorical.  It invites the  audience to think for themselves.  It challenges them to think in a different way.

The “performance management does not exist, statement” story, is simply so controversial it makes people sit up and pay attention.  (Within a minute they are agreeing with me).

The strategy sentence makes fun of how the word is used and opens up people to listen to the way the word is used in different ways.

Creating whiplash

The advantage of this is that, (as one speaking coach I met put it)  you create whip lash in the audience.  They are expecting a gentle introduction, and you have already jumped straight in.  You have woken them up. You have their attention.  They have to sit forward and start thinking from now!

This is all part of making it stick

The reason I describe these is because I have been reading a superb book called “Made to Stick” by Chip and Dan Heath.  In it they explain how  messages can be constructed in a way that have impact, are memorable and stick in people’s mind.  They use one example to demonstrate the  mount of saturated fat in cinema popcorn.  He could tell you it is 38 grams in a medium sized serving, but that would probably mean very little.  Instead Art Silverman placed on a table a Bacon and eggs breakfast, a Big-Mac, fries, and a whole a steak dinner with all the trimming.  Put next to a bag of popcorn, he explained that you would have to eat ALL of this combined to get somewhere near the fat content of the popcorn.  Now that is an  image that sticks in the  mind.

Art got his message across with simplicity and power.  Can you do the same with your imperative for change in your organisation, without using a full cooked breakfast?  I strongly recommend you have a read of Made to Stick.  You can buy Made to Stick here I an sure you will find within it much that is useful.