Want them to believe in your strategy? Skip the numbers and tell a story

The leader approached the podium. “I want to tell you a story…”

It was 3 pm in Toronto at head office and the help desk was handling its usual round of password changes, software installations, and access requests.

“Don, this one’s for you! Emergency on line 2. It’s Denis from Edmonton.”

Don picked up and quickly introduced himself. Denis spoke quickly: “You know those fires in Northern Alberta? Well, they are evacuating Fort Mac and a number of other small towns. We’ve got people headed in while everyone else is headed out, tagging up with the emergency services team to provide support for separated families and volunteer firefighters. We need IT support.”

Don recorded details about location and contacts and then went to the storage area. He pulled out 4 large pelican cases preloaded with laptops and network hardware and hauled them down to the dock just as the courier arrived to pick them up.

Don then called the IT rep in Edmonton. “Alex, are you up to speed on what’s happening?”

“Ya, Denis came by and filled me in. I don’t have much hardware here, but I’m ready to hit the road with what I’ve got,” said Alex.

“Do it. Make sure you have your backup phone. I’ve got the full kit on the way. Follow the checklist. Checkpoint every 2 hours.”

Alex was on-site that evening, and the next day the courier had dropped the extra gear off with a local emergency response team who took it up to site. 24 hours after Denis’ first call there was a complete IT and communication network up and running in Fort McMurray to help volunteers reconnect families separated in the chaos, and coordinate practical support for other volunteers working day and night.

The leader paused. “In 2016 the story I just told you did not happen. It could not happen. But the next time we are facing an emergency that requires IT support, it WILL happen. Our first strategic priority for 2020 is to cut our response times in half for our highest priority requests. Not every request has people’s lives at stake, but every request does impact people. It impacts your ability to carry out our mission and that is first priority.”


You won’t remember this post in a few months, but I bet you will remember something about Don, Denis and Alex. If we want deep buy-in for our strategies, talking about revenue, markets, and cashflow will not stir hearts as much as stories. Use them to create a cause. Give them something vivid in which to hope.

In case you missed the background articles:

  1. Leverage Help and Heart to Build Buy-in for Change
  2. Want Buy-In? Give Them Hope as well as Help

Thoughtfully yours,

Jeff Skipper

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Jeff Skipper
Jeff Skipper is an expert in accelerating change. Clients such as Shell, Goldman Sachs and The Salvation Army have engaged him to achieve dramatic results during strategic transformation by wrapping complex change in motivating mission. He has been quoted in Fast Company, Forbes and HP’s enterprise.nxt. Jeff holds a Master’s degree in Organizational Psychology and is a Certified Change Management Professional.