Does Your Group Know “The Story”

Almost every organization I talk to has gone through an elaborate process to redefine its vision and mission statements, and to produce structured statements of goals and objectives.

These, in turn, are translated downward into divisions, departments, and finally workgroups.

Each has their own map of objectives fitted into the bigger picture.

What I also find in my travels is that few people in a workgroup can actually articulate “the story” that underlies all of this.

Oh, they can point to the wall chart with the objectives on them — few have them memorized (nor should they necessarily have them so) — but simple questions asking how the work they are currently doing fits into the bigger picture, or what value these objectives lead to, remain unanswered.

What this says to us is that although the objectives have been posted, the underlying story line is not understood — and therefore the whole process leading to the objectives has missed the point.

Organizations go through the vision, mission, values, goals and objective-determination process to try and make the path to be followed when something new comes along more obvious, or to allow people to look at the work they do and propose changes that would increase productivity (defined here as “more toward the goals”). Why doesn’t this happen?

There are two classes of reason I find again and again.

The first is that these statements are curiously dry and drawn out.

Few keep them short; even fewer use emotional language to describe what is to be done.

These are the hallmarks of something which is not only memorable, but something which can dig its way in to the subconscious and become a part of every single observation and decision made during the course of the day.

The second is more interesting. We’ve all heard of how important having your “elevator pitch” is when you are trying to make change: the quick few sentences that can be used when a chance encounter occurs to advance your cause.

This means knowing your story cold: why it’s to be done, what needs doing, what’s in it for the listener; it also means being able to use emotional language to communicate excitement and engage the listener.

In effect, the “elevator pitch” is a very short performance, no less important than the actor’s on stage in engaging the audience.

Can your people discuss your area’s contributions in this way?

Do they know what needs to be said to advance your group’s goals if the opportunity arises?

Have you coached them on forming “elevator pitches” and how to communicate in a way that engages the listener? No?

No wonder no one actually puts any of the vision, mission, goals and objectives into daily life!

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About passionateobserver

I am a passionate observer of our society, the economy, and politics. Mostly I don't like much of what I see, so I write as a concerned citizen. To the fray, I bring a background in the philosophy of history, a lifetime's reading, a work history in information technology management, consulting and education.
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