Insight article

Our strategic narrative: practising what we preach

There’s a saying that you can tell a cobbler by his shoes, implying that he is so busy he has little time to address his own footwear. In the same vein, ‘doctors make the worst patients’ might also apply (and if you happen to be the child of two doctors, as am I, you’ll know that you certainly don’t get the same sympathy as you’d hope their actual patients get).

So when we embarked on creating our own strategic narrative at The Storytellers – an exercise we’ve now done for over 170 major organisations across the world – we weren’t entirely sure how it was going to pan out or, more importantly, how we could possibly stay friends during the process. Roger, one of our best-loved and most talented storywriters, was tasked with drafting it, based on interviews with each of the senior leadership team, and aligning us behind the draft narrative that emerged.

It took time, not least because we were so busy with our clients that it kept getting put on the back-burner. But we eventually reached final alignment, and ‘Our Journey to Soar’ was born.

I have to admit, the black-and-white, words-only version was good: beautifully written by Roger as we’d expected. Of course. But it wasn’t until one of our designers, Sana, brought it to life with a stunning, colourful Da Vinci-esque creative treatment that captured the concept of the art and science of storytelling so well, that it really came into its own. I have to say I actually felt quite emotional when I saw it transformed into a stupendous piece of art. Our creative expertise really did do the trick.

Two years later we are embarking on ‘the next episode’…an updated story that will show progress and weave in the next set of challenges and opportunities that underpin our journey of growth. But what’s been so gratifying is how we’ve used our Story at every opportunity to remind the team of where we’re going, why we make the decisions we make, how we need to act and behave, and what our priorities need to be.

Every week it makes an appearance as we relate stories of the previous week, linking them back to the narrative. It has been a reminder of the approach we need to take with our clients, and other priorities, which has influenced the shape of our business plan. It has provided clarity and direction for our decision-making. It has proved a useful tool for positive team conversations, and occasionally to take the heat out of a ‘difficult conversation’. It has reinforced our new brand and provided us with a wonderful creative campaign. We use it for conversations with potential candidates and induction for new recruits. It has aligned us as a leadership team and has helped us to explain the ‘why’ as well as the ‘what’ and the ‘how’. It is a brilliant strategic engagement tool. And clients love the fact that we’re actually walking the talk ourselves (after all, it’s what we preach to them….!). It’s no coincidence that we’ve enjoyed one of our best-ever years from a performance point-of-view.

So next time I pop into our local shoe-repair shop I’ll check out the state of the owner’s shoes. If they’re shiny and clean, it won’t necessarily mean he’s not diligent and too busy dealing with his own customers’ shoes. It could be that he simply appreciates the benefits of looking after his own footwear. Walking the talk, so to speak. Literally.

 

Alison Esse
Co-founder and Director

Alison Esse

Alison Esse

Co-founder and Director