Stories Tell More Than Words Alone Ever Can

Written by Crystal Lee

When you think back on your time in college / university, you will likely recall at least some teachers who were infamous for their boring classroom culture. Perhaps these classes included drawn out lectures with no lasting memories. Perhaps no one doubted the credibility of the educator or the validity of their message, it simply did not translate into an energetic educational experience. Information was shared – but lasting knowledge and deeply rooted principles, probably not.

Nevertheless, it is likely that a stand-out educator also comes to mind. Think back to your favorite teacher or professor. Odds are, this educator brought incredible passion with them into the classroom. It is also a good bet, that this educator you remember so fondly was notorious for interesting, memorable story-telling. This is no surprise, since story-telling has a time-honored reputation as being a highly efficient teaching and engagement tool.

The effectiveness of such a tactic certainly bleeds over into the world of business management. When a business elects to adopt Integrated Business Planning and begins the discipline of routine Business Reviews, a culture of information sharing, and engaging discussion should develop; not so different from a captivating college course that allows you to dig in to topics that really matter, engages you, and inspires you to aim higher. However, the challenge in achieving that lies in how business leaders communicate the performance and future of the business from Review to Review.

What kind of tone is set in your IBP meetings? Do they energize or deflate? Is it more like the classroom you dreaded, or more like the captivating lecture hall you just couldn’t wait to enter and left you feeling like you could conquer the world?

More importantly, do your IBP Reviews communicate business performance in such a way that team members can understand and visualize each functional business process and the dependencies between them? Do the commercial teams understand the impact of demand plan bias and inaccuracies on supply chain?  Does supply chain understand the aggregate level assumptions being shared by marketing?  Does finance respect the balanced set of numbers emerging and resist the urge to develop their own?

To achieve that level of integrated understanding requires more than just sharing the latest news.  IBP reviews should go well beyond just “what” is happening.

They need to tell the STORY: What’s happening – Why is it important – What are we going to do about it.  As I often tell my clients, your IBP reviews should answer these questions:


Leaders who bring energy and utilize great storytelling can foster this level of understanding with their teams and engage them in action to achieve the future plans.

Consider once more that influential teacher or professor. Was she a master of brevity? Was he exceptional at communicating specific values in his stories? Likewise, business leaders will do well to let these traits emerge from within their IBP Reviews. Leaders who can ignite the collective imagination of their teams – and with brevity to boot – during IBP Reviews will bring their business planning process to life, and generate more buy-in than they could ever have imagined.