Blog Article

Croissants and fairy tales. How storytelling makes strategy happen

Posted by Eric S. Pelletier

Eric S. Pelletier

We’ve looked at how creating ‘one shared story’ of facts and figures about your company and the market in which it operates will cut through the noise and help your people to understand and sign up to your strategy.

But why does it? And what’s it got to do with baking?

The answer is in the kitchen

Cooking is a great analogy for management. There are different—and sometimes unpredictable—ingredients (people, in the case of organizations). There are processes (recipes) and finally, outcomes: a dish or financial performance.

In the process of making croissants, dough is folded and layered with butter, again and again, to create the delicious and unique light-yet-rich result. How is this relevant to aligning people around a message? Getting people to understand and remember a message involves a process that’s similar to the process of folding and refolding involved in making a croissant.

But rather than dough, managers work with the organization’s one shared story or ‘fact book’ communicating it repeatedly.

Research shows that when people, in a similar context, are exposed to the same facts, they tend to arrive at the same conclusions. And so, when they’re in the same organization then, they’re also likely to arrive at the same conclusion about the right strategy to take the organization forward.

Take this hypothetical set of facts. If for example, people know that their clients are clamouring for integrated solutions, that successful competitors are developing them instead of products and technology is quickly commoditizing standard products, they’re all likely to get behind a drive towards solutions.

Getting your people on message

The one shared – story or factbook – helps correct for distortion because it gives everyone a common sense of what the strategy should be. It unscrambles the message.

Take a look at the text below. For English speakers, the set of rules and facts we have in our mind about the language’s patterns means we can reassemble messages that look completely garbled:

Buleive it or ndt, aucordnig to a rezeerch by Cumbrlgde Umiveecity, as loog as tke flsrt and lust wrod aee in tke rghit palce, tye rset of twe wodrs cxn be in a mses amd yeu wlll hvae no porbelm riedang it. Aamznig, huh?

Storytelling works in the same way. It helps people share the message and decode it when it becomes scrambled.

The power of the fairy tale

Just as ‘23 reasons not to talk to strangers’ has much less impact on children than the cautionary tale of Little Red Riding Hood, using one shared story is a more powerful way to spread the message. A common narrative helps people take the strategy ‘on board’ and rebuild it for themselves.

And what’s more, once your managers have absorbed the strategic story, they’ll transmit and reinforce it in their day-to-day actions.

Croissants and fairy tales: it’s a long way from management memos and corporate roadshows. But using layers of storytelling to cut through the noise and embed the strategic message gives organizations a much stronger chance of achieving their goals.

In the third and final post, we’ll look in more detail at how formal and informal networks can be used for that ‘folding’ or storytelling process.



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