A strategic narrative is the story of a company.
Now, before you throw your hands up in disgust at this obvious-seeming answer, you should understand that I’m not talking about the usual, “Founded in 2010 by tech whiz-kids Mary Jones and Frank Smith… etc.” A strategic narrative is NOT the same thing as “about page” copy or company history.
Instead, it’s a deep and detailed exploration of what makes the organization tick. A well-written strategic narrative gives the reader a look at the actual DNA of the company, the underlying force that shapes it and drives it forward. It reveals the company’s higher purpose—or reason for being—where it is now, and where it sees itself going in the future. It’s a business strategy, messaging platform, and even website architecture all rolled up into one. And it’s a fantastic tool for clarifying shared values and unifying your workforce.
The Strategic Narrative Process is Transformative
Maybe you have a strong company origin story but you just haven’t captured it yet. Perhaps there never was a single overarching company story, and as new people have joined the company they’ve added their own ideas, so now the business has a disjointed collection of stories that roughly describe its origin and purpose.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard execs say with absolute certainty that every single person in the company is clear on the story and already knows it… only to find out that no one else is singing the same tune.
Regardless, bringing stakeholders together from across the organization to participate in creating this story will spark discussions and sometimes even arguments, but in the end it’s a process that still promotes unity. Everyone will believe in and share this story because they all wrote it together. And that makes it incredibly valuable.
Implementing a strategic narrative initiative also supports a core focus for many organizations: developing their people.
Companies are investing more and more in working with employees to connect personal goals with larger company goals. A strategic narrative makes goal-alignment a thousand times easier. By reviewing the strategic narrative, both employee and employer can see mutual wins and areas where the employee’s ambitions may clash with the company’s needs. It’s an incredible tool for professional development.
There are many other people-centric benefits that a strategic narrative brings, all of which reverberate throughout the company.
It Promotes Loyalty
When employees understand what their company believes in, what it values, and why it exists, they’re more loyal and productive. Why? Because when they see these things clearly, it actually makes it easier for them to do their jobs.
When they grasp the company’s values, they are better able to make decisions that align with those values. A strong strategic narrative makes employees self-selecting, since people typically prefer to work for a company that shares their own values. And when they see senior management abiding by these values, it completely seals the deal.
It Fosters Consensus
When your company lacks a strategic narrative, employees must figure out for themselves what the company’s purpose and values might be. Unfortunately, that means they’ll be piecing it together from fuzzy recollections, vaguely remembered stories, and distorted perceptions that have accumulated in their individual minds over the years. No one really knows what the company stands for or what it’s higher purpose might be—which means that setting strategic goals together is impossible.
Creating a strategic narrative will allow you to gain consensus around the problems your industry is facing, how others are falling short of solving them, and how your business solves them. It also helps you identify the buying center—both positive and negative influencers—and how your core audiences should take action.
It Improves Communications
With a strategic narrative in hand, everyone can speak the same language; all communications make more sense and are more productive. You know those long, frustrating meetings where you spend most of the time trying to figure out what you’re all doing there in the first place? Those won’t happen anymore.
When everyone knows what their shared purpose is, they feel like they are part of something much bigger than themselves. That gives them the motivation to be more invested, more resilient, and more innovative.
Next: Part II – What a Strategic Narrative Can Do for Your Customers and Fans