A Strategy Storybook?

Yes really!  A Strategy Storybook is business-critical for your enterprise because it captures, gains consensus between stakeholders and articulates answers to the most important that tell the story of your business.  Find out more about it and how to create yours.

The problem a strategy storybook solves

Many enterprise fail because business leadership teams haven’t agreed answers to key questions such as why the enterprise exists, how it creates value, who its customers are, what is the extent of its market etc.  

Your enterprise might just die without it

You’d think (wouldn’t you) that every group of people looking to create an enterprise already does this because it’s a necessary part of writing a business plan. And sometimes they do. But as time goes by and companies drift into a predictable pattern of business growth, product lines tend to expand, clarity of purpose blurs, customers distract–and the purity of purpose that was there in the minds of the founders is blurred.

I describe this clarity in understanding the essence of an enterprise is business critical. That’s because, the business world today is extremely competitive–it’s a global market. You need to be brutally clear on the niche you serve, the behavior you’re looking to create in your customers, the offerings that maximize your profit, the conversational topics (and conversational paths) that will lead customers to your door. Failure to maintain this clarity results in wasted marketing spend, misaligned sales and marketing processes that slow growth, and a reduction in customer value (due to a lack of focus) that results in a further loss of profits. Often, this all happens just when businesses don’t need it. They need that high profit margin to have the strength to re-invest in innovation. And (according to Geoffrey West) without that strength, they die.

So what is it?

A storybook is literally ‘a storybook’ the leadership team creates through a series of workshops to tell the story of the enterprise. It’s a proven method to gain consensus and understanding across the senior management team of a business.  It builds a foundation of knowledge surrounding the important subjects that drive success.   It sounds like child’s play–writing a storybook–but it’s more difficult than it sounds.  

When writing your story, you will need to answer: 

  1. What is the purpose of your business and how is it articulated in your brand story?
  2. How do you define your market, who are your customers, and why will they buy?
  3. What value do you create for customers and why is your offer better at getting a job done than alternative remedies?
  4. What does your customer conversation look like?
  5. How do you turn customer value into shareholder returns in the most effective way?  To learn more read our article feature on Writing a Strategy Storybook.


Learn how to run a STORYBOOK workshop

Overcoming Reluctance and Loggerheads

Almost inevitably, the first time this topic is introduced I get the reaction, ‘Oh, well, we already know who we are, so we don’t know your service.’  And yet.  The fun always starts when people start writing down a common, shared understanding of their answers to the ten questions!   Discourse reigns and the assumptions individuals make about their offering and what their customers care about are palpable.  The last thing needed is for camps to form between factions of the leadership team when long-standing disagreements on values and direction surface.   I recommend companies look for outside help when running this activity.  It’s so much easier for an independent and knowledgeable third-party to steer the conversation and ensure that the storybook tells the best possible story about a business.

strategy storybook frontcover

Getting Storybooks right

Lots of things can go wrong when crafting a storybook. The most difficult, and the most common, occurs when leaders can’t agree on the purpose of the story and the central plot. Any good storybook needs to have a beginning, middle and end that wraps around a central character or theme. On more than one occasion I’ve sat in workshops when a leadership team couldn’t agree on what the central theme of their book was.

Another challenge is a lack of good insight. To make decisions, management teams need to cut off other options. And to do that requires courage and good insight. The sort of data commonly missing in these workshops includes:

  • Who the audience is
  • What causes them to ‘get motivated to buy a product (and specifically, what undesirables can they no longer live with)?
  • The characteristics that go to make an attractive customer
  • The profitability of products and customer accounts

What you can do with your Storybook once you’ve made your own

I’ve always found creating a storybook is an enjoyable and thought-provoking activity for participating leadership teams. It’s a great way to gain consensus and take the heat out of emotional topics. Having an external facilitator to lead the workshops not invested in the outcomes does help. Having a storybook makes a big difference to any business. You can use it to:

  • Validate your customer value by discussing with customers HOW THEY SEE YOUR CUSTOMER VALUE and whether your fundamentals are a dream or a reality.
  • Bring clarity to your business plan and marketing strategy – use it as the ultimate litmus test for every major strategic decision made.
  • Share the joy of your purpose with your workforce, investors, partners and customers.
  • Address the difficult decisions around which product lines you should focus on and which you should trim back on.

Let’s facilitate!

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