I wanna tell you a story …

No, it’s not a post about Max Bygraves, it’s a post about planning. Which seems pretty far removed from dear old Max, at first glance, but not as much as you think.

What is a plan? It’s a description of a set of actions and events that haven’t happened yet, and might never happen. It speculates what the outcome of these are, should they actually come about. It’s a fantasy. A business fantasy, true, but it’s still made up. A plan is just a story without any jokes or characters in it.

When people struggle to explain their plan, to get the mass of thoughts and ideas into some sort of structure, I ask them to tell me a story about what is going to happen. They quickly move from mute frustration into enthusiastic and effortless speech, painting a clear picture of how they see things turning out. Once they have the story, it’s then much easier to go back and tie in the actions, the things and the people they need, and the milestones they need to hit.

The other great thing about telling a story is that people emotionally connect with it. That includes you, which means it is full of power and conviction. Others buy into what you are saying and want to support you. They also internalise it, they retell it in their own words, and will come up with all sorts of additions and missing pieces that you would never have thought of on your own. And, they will enthusiastically tell others your story too.

“I wanna articulate a plan…” no, I don’t think Max would have got far with that. Stick to the stories.

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