The Power of 'The Story'

Laura Dallas Burford is the founder of LAD Enterprizes, a management consulting firm that partners with consultants as well as internal and external consulting organizations to successfully build the operational and delivery aspects of their practices. Laura appreciates feedback on her articles and can be reached at She is the author of Project Management for Flat Organizations.

Teachable moments occur on projects whenever a messy problem occurs or a potential problem might occur. Many times, there is no one right resolution. By involving the team members in the analysis and decision process, a project problem can be resolved or averted. Team members take ownership of the solution and the team strengthens its problem-solving skills.

In a teachable moment, the project manager presents a situation to the team and facilitates a team discussion. The team works together to analyze, identify and solve the problem. A challenge is a team may struggle to see a potential solution because it cannot see the problem. Occasionally it cannot see the problem because members are too close to the project, the so-called problem is a symptom of a problem or the problem is a solution hidden behind the real problem.

One technique a project manager can use is to tell a story. By providing the right level of detail and framing the problem, a project manager can use a story to assist team members reflect, evaluate and map different possibilities and outcomes. However, bringing a story to life and making it engaging can be difficult.

Creating a Story
Some of the most powerful stories are very short--and many project stories will be short. Regardless of length, a successful story needs to contain five elements. To create a successful story:

  1. Paint a …

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Eighty percent of success is showing up.

- Woody Allen