Hey PM… What’s Your ‘Story’!?
“A Project manager spends 90% of his time communicating” – is a statement we all understand very well. But are we really emphasizing enough on the ‘Effectiveness’ of this exercise? Well, effective communication is also not new to us, but are we giving a thought on how our (effectively) communicated message reach stakeholders?
Off the many tools for communication in a project /operations environment, ‘Story telling’ emerged to be a favorite one. Most of us have been doing it unknowingly. When you, as a kid were adamant on not eating food, you mother narrated a story to convince you. The story and the characters /roles was carefully chosen to match the situation, stating the pros / cons.
If you dissect the structure of any leadership discussion or a good TEDx talk or a spiritual discourse by a guru or a 3-slide presentation from a renowned leader or the Toastmasters’ club meet or a celebrity talking on his/her inspiring journey, you will observe this one pattern common across – it has a story that keeps the intent and content glued together to percolate the message in a way the audience will understand.
Why have few TV news channels succeeded on winning good TRP at prime time? Why are suspense /thriller movies the most viewed? How do you manage to (at this age of yours!) remember the kindergarten rhymes you learnt? How are you able to answer flawlessly in an interview when asked “Tell me about the most difficult project you handled and how did you sail across?” These, with no doubt are data in numbers. Are mere numbers enough to sell your idea?
“People do not buy what you do, They buy why you do it.” ~ Simon Sinek
If asked, a project manager can list a dozen more constraints apart from the usual ones (Scope, Budget, Schedule) – uncertainty, resistance, dislike, difficult stakeholders, risks, negotiation, etc. He cannot move past these with just detailed Gantt charts or green-yellow-red reports.
So, how do we go about crafting a story to create lasting change? There isn’t really one standard format to storytelling. I personally would focus on rehearsing the Delivery of the story, after you have chosen the message, planned the backdrop & characters and organizing the climax.
These are few things that you may want to consider while you are conveying a solution by storytelling –
- Grab the audience’s attention – give them just enough information by creating hope and excitement
- Take the audience on a journey and converge various scenarios to the base idea
- Use analogies to support your concept /idea
- Help your audience join the dots
- Park your talk at a satisfying conclusion
How does storytelling help?
- There is a story around every situation. Just look around, reach out and carefully choose the apt story. You do not play a heavy metal song to put an infant to sleep! Sing a lullaby, don’t you?
- Inspire actions – Stories help you communicate the “WHY” of your project, inspire the team to invest and get results early on.
- Keeping things simple.
- People look up to you, express honest interest in leveraging your experience.
- Relatively smoother Change management
Where can we use Story telling?
- In your Production /Operations war room – explore a similar situation from the past, check on who can help, what approach did they follow, did they succeed /fail, what were the learning.
- When Projecting your team – talk about challenges (problem), how they sailed the tides (applying the right skill and attitude) and Success stories (Wins)
- Pitching for a new project / Making an important presentation / Sales funnel – Use visuals instead of too many bullets.
- Coaching your team – talk about your experiences, learning, journey.
- Simon Sinek, author of the best seller – “Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action”
- My mother, my son 🙂