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How To Bring Strategy To Life Using The Power Of Story (Part 1)

Written by: Mark Hoogewerf

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

 

Meanwhile in the senior management team: “We need a better story.” Discussion. “What's wrong with the old one?”, “But we couldn't have foreseen this situation!”, “Nah, people just don’t get it.” “Now that we’ve adjusted our plans, our corporate story just doesn’t fit anymore. Anyhow, we can’t afford good people leaving. Right?” “Right.” Then: “What story are we talking about?” “The story around our purpose and vision.” “Too fluffy for me. Where’s the business case in that?”

Fortunately, it's not all about big profits, shareholder value or business cases anymore. Purpose-driven organizations are more sustainable and successful, as reality and research demonstrate. So how can you harness the power of purpose? By storifying it.


This is the first part of a trilogy. We’ll connect the fascinating concepts of strategy and storytelling, and leave you with a pragmatic approach to boosting your strategic narrative – the inspiring high-level story about the essence and impact of your organization.


The Hero’s Journey of your organization


Your organization is a living entity on a one-way journey through time. Identity is the story between then and now; between was and is. Vision is the story of later; about will be. And the strategy is the bridging story between now and later; between is and will be. They are all about transformation – like most good stories are.


A strategic narrative is a compact story that makes the vision explicit, communicates the strategy, reinforces the structure, and substantiates the culture. It forms the basis for communication that excites employees, entices customers and engages stakeholders. It explains why you exist, what you want to achieve and what makes you unique. It conveys how you believe value is created and what your values are in relationships.

And it must become a true story. A story of authenticity, of sense-making and sense-giving. A living story – or perhaps even a living legend – with business elements. The Hero's Journey of your organization.

Romantic, futuristic and realistic


A story plays in a universe and has characters and a plot. As humans personify, your brand, your organization as a whole, is a character. So are your internal and external target audiences. And then, in the business context of your organization, the adventures happen. Who are the heroes? Why, against what, and for what are they/we fighting? How do they/we go above and beyond?


There are parallel and sequential storylines; every ending is a new beginning. You can create an exciting series with many interesting characters and events from your strategic narrative, the primal story. At Netflix, they know all about that.


Beware of pitfalls


Management may feel the urge to delegate this hairy problem of identity, meaning and destiny, internally or to an everyday marketing or communications service provider. Followed by a politically correct project plan, new slogan, social media campaign, or something along those lines. These may certainly work, but the process is not at that point yet. So, if you are the owner of this strategic development project, that's of no use to you right now.


Certainly, it is very useful if you have research and analytics about how employees and customers experience your brand and quality. Customer journey mapping, online statistics, nightmare competitors, it all contributes – later on.


Yet the real exercise is something else, something more elemental. Learning from and letting go of the old, the pseudo-objectivity, the egos. Being open to what arises intuitively, in dialogue and equality. Admitting vulnerability. Devising a vision, or finding one.


A fresh, external view and experience in guiding such change processes can surely help. As long as leadership feels and takes ownership of strategic narrative development and roll-out.


Purpose, isn't that what we all seek?


A shared goal with joint execution creates value and impact. It is not for nothing that purpose-driven organizations are so trending. It ties in with our elementary hunger for meaning, especially in turbulent times like these.


There are organizations (and people) that are purpose-driven by nature, that have an amazing story by sheer existence. But those are few among many. Oftentimes it requires a journey. And as the saying goes: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together”.


So, if this resonates with you, leave a comment and hold on for the sequel.


The end of this episode. Next time: about how you come to grips with your strategic story.


Mark Hoogewerf, Visiologist & presenters mentor at Noblahblah


Mark Hoogewerf loves stories. To him, the ultimate story is the legend: a time-traveling tale that connects dream and reality. What makes him professionally happy, is working on building those living legends: kick-ass stories about people and brands that create memories and movement.


Mark combines passion with strategy and idealism with results. He’s also an inspiration junkie. Inspired by the people he meets, the organizations he works with, and science (and) fiction. Despite – or because of – 25 years of expertise in communication, marketing and management, Mark is still learning every day.


While he helps clients write – and authentically present – the history of the future.



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Noblahblah, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

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Noblahblah was founded in 2018 as a training company to support better public speaking. Today we offer a broad range of trainings and coaching that help our customers develop their full potential by communicating with more confidence and more fun, on stage, online and in person.


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