How does having a powerful strategic narrative help organisations? 

When someone sets up a business, they do this with a passion to be the best they can be.  As the business grows, the business owner brings more people on board to share in delivering this passion.  They share the passion with others by spending time together and working together to deliver it.  Whilst the business owner might not be able to articulate in a sentence or paragraph what that passion is and how they deliver it, the team learn this through conversation and interactions.   But as the business grows, the business owner can’t spend as much time with the team as they would like.  When the team gets to about 20 or so people, the message about what the passion is and how it is delivered, starts to dilute and become a little like Chinese whispers, as the business owner spends less time with each team member.

Fast forward to larger organisations, whether 200 or 2,000 employees and there is a high risk that this passion is now heavily diluted.  It may have even mutated into ideas and ways of working that new employees have brought in from their previous employer or your competitors, that you originally set out to be better than.  I was talking to the owner of a small global tech company as to what they did.  His response was that it depended on who you asked.   This clearly would lead to a break down in quality of delivery to your customers who might not come back, dependent on who they interacted with and what they viewed their role as.

To overcome this, organisations should spend some time considering the following,

  • What is the big picture? Why does the business do what it does?  What benefit will you give to your customers in delivering this purpose?
  • How would the organisation behave when it delivers this? You can give it a personality and values by using questions such as:
    • What actor would it be and why?
    • What piece of music would it be and why?
    • What car would it be and why?

You can involve the team in helping to identify the answers to help them feel ownership with the organisation.  Once you have this, talk to the team to help them identify how their role directly links back to the big picture and how they will work in line with the personality.

One of the best examples of this is when a dignitary went to NASA.  He met a cleaner and asked “what are you doing?”.  The response was “I am getting a man on the moon”.  The cleaner did not say I am cleaning 200sqm of ceramic floor.  The cleaner knew that if they didn’t clean the floor properly, the floor would be dirty, which would mean dirt would get in the rockets, the rockets wouldn’t fire and man wouldn’t get to the moon.  The cleaner was clear on how their role impacted directly on the big picture of why they were doing what they do.

Providing this level of clarity and sharing stories about this will have a major impact on each member of the team, as this information goes to the part of their brain which drives their actions and behaviours.  It is the same part of the brain which creates the sense of ‘gut instinct’ when you make decisions.  They will be able to recall the big picture, the why, with as much clarity as their first kiss, and will respond to customers and colleagues in line with the personality and values you identified.  They will also be more resilient when things don’t go right first time.  In fact, they will be 5 times less likely to give up when things go wrong.

Finally, they are also less likely to take time off sick when they have clarity of the big picture and why, compared to employees who just think their job just consists of a list of tasks on a job description.

Spending time being clear on this with all your team will:

  • Provide clarity to employees and customers of why you do what you do
  • Improve service and product consistency and customer satisfaction
  • Improve employee satisfaction
  • Reduce absenteeism and wastage
  • Provide clarity when new business opportunities appear

How much would that be worth to your business and what is one thing that you can do today to start this?

Author Bio: Frazer Rendell, Director, E-Trinity Consultancy and EFS Steering Group Member
Photo Credit: ijmaki from Pixabay

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