The Power of Story

One of the challenges I’ve seen companies and not for profit organizations face in their strategic planning process is future think with the primary focus on numbers, stats and charts. It tends to be a default position. Are the numbers important? Absolutely. They are, after all, a report card on a company’s performance and they are a critical measurement of its ability to meet specific goals and milestones. So it’s not surprising that as part of the process of strategic planning the number side of the equation often looms large. I’ve seen many a strat planning session dominated by mapping exercises that attempt to create a picture of the future. And I’ve been keenly aware of the missing piece – the company story.

Every organization has one. But for many, this story is merely a bit of mostly forgotten history. If that’s the case it’s not only a shame; it’s a missed opportunity. Why? Because a company’s story is at the heart of the organization. Or it should be. How a company started, the impetus behind its founding, the people who made it happen, the hurdles overcome – all are powerful drivers in the growth and development of an organization. Ultimately, the company story is a thread that connects directly to the brand and the brand is reflected in every touch point an organization has with its stakeholders.

The organization’s story helps to deliver its marketing message because it makes that message memorable to both internal and external audiences: staff, customers, shareholders, board members, volunteers, donors and supporters – all stakeholders in both the corporate and not-for-profit worlds.

Every good speechwriter knows that anecdotal stories attached to the facts and statistics in a speech breathe life into what would otherwise be a haze of easily forgotten bullet points. When a real life story is used to illustrate numbers or complex facts, most of us remember the story, which triggers a recollection, and frequently, a greater appreciation, of the factual information.

Why not put a brief overview of the company story at the top of the agenda for your next planning session? Consider it from the viewpoint of the new members of your team who will benefit from being able to place the numbers in context of the organization’s history. And look at it as a valuable opportunity for the veterans in the organization to share their connections to its story. Somebody once had the drive, energy and passion to take the risk of starting your organization.

Do you think it’s worth keeping the power of an organization’s story alive as you plan for the future?