What's the Story? Stakeholders Want to Know

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Categories: Stakeholder


There is nothing like a good story to connect with project stakeholders and team members. Storytelling has been used to communicate sophisticated ideas for millennia, ranging from the parables in the Bible to the morals found in fairy tales. 

Done right, storytelling is a captivating way to explain why your project (or a decision within the project) was initiated, what it will become and the benefits that will follow. 

Creating a good story requires skill, and while you may never become the next J.K. Rowling, applying some effective development techniques can help you hone your own storytelling style.

The "story spine," a tool created by U.S. playwright Kenn Adams, helps project professionals craft well-structured stories. The outline is a series of sentence fragments that prompt the narrative elements of your story. You can even use it in a group setting -- perhaps during an exercise in which you ask team members to craft a story to explain the technical decisions made by team.

The template is as follows, with a project management example in italics on securing buy-in to solve an emerging risk issue:

The Platform introduces the issue or topic.

  • Once upon a time...
  • Example: The project risk register identified...

The Catalyst explains why this is important today.

  • But one day, something changed...
  • Example: The recent findings have escalated this risk significantly by...

The Consequences explains the journey and the "problem."

  • Because of that... (This is repeated as many times as you wish.)
  • Example: Because of this, we have had to change...

  • And then _____ occurred.
  • Example: This change caused...

The Climax is the turning point that leads to the proposed solution.

  • Until finally...
  • Example: Which means the project must...

The Resolution is the final -- and positive -- solution to problem. 

  • And the moral of the story is...
  • Example: And we need your approval to implement these recommendations.

So next time you need to sell an idea to management or to your project team, why not try a good story? 

Have you ever tried telling a story to gain buy-in from stakeholders? What technique did you find helpful? 

Posted by Lynda Bourne on: March 26, 2013 07:04 PM | Permalink

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