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STORIES ARE A SERIOUS BUSINESS TOOL

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How Companies Use Stories

Stories and storytelling cut across all types of industries and all business functions. The diagram below is only a narrow snapshot of where and how stories are used. You need a super wide angle lens to capture the corporate storytelling landscape. Note also that stories transcend organization size.

Stories are not limited to lofty corporate wide applications. I've seen more "mundane" uses such as a start-up using a story in its business plan presentation to investors, a six sigma consulting company using stories to help their clients and government vendors using stories in their proposal applications.

Includes how companies are using stories, how to tell and use stories and many quotes from business experts.

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STORIES ARE SERIOUS BUSINESS

"Stories constitute the single most powerful weapon in a leader's arsenal."
Dr. Howard Gardner, Professor, Harvard University, Author of Leading Minds

Storytelling in business? There have been a few articles on storytelling published in the Harvard Business Review. But it hasn't yet hit the Business Top Ten List

Storytelling is a very serious business tool. Look at the best books in business - they all include stories or anecdotes about real business topics. As Thomas A. Stewart puts it, "Nothing serves a leader better than a knack for narrative. Stories anoint role models, impart values, and show how to execute indescribably complex tasks." Michael Hattersley, who in his Harvard Business Review article says, "Too often, we make the mistake of thinking of business as a matter of pure rational calculation, something that in a few years computers will handle better than humans. One hears this in conference room and corridor: "What do the numbers indicate?" "Just give me the facts." "Let's weigh the evidence and make the right decision." And yet, truth to tell, few talents are more important to managerial success than knowing how to tell a good story."

I know from my own experience that stories work. You might think that a degree in business or better yet an MBA is needed to become a leader - wrong! I have both, but when I got my first supervisory job, I realized how little I knew about what it took to be a good leader. What I do remember from my Management Leadership course with Peter Drucker was his telling stories about how Alfred Sloane led General Motors to a transformation. He also told stories about his own development - when he was a young manager he learned how never to surprise your boss. Stories stay with you because they involve people and how they deal with real situations and issues.

Stories are such potent carriers of values and memory similar stories show up in more than one company. For instance, many companies share the story of the day an underling stops the boss from breaking a rule. In the IBM version, Tom Watson praises the security guard who forces him to go back for his identification. But when a Revlon receptionist won't let Charles Revson walk off with a sign-in sheet, he fires her. In one company the moral is, we obey rules; in the other, We obey rulers.

How Companies Use Stories

Stories and storytelling cut across all types of industries and all business functions. The diagram below is only a narrow snapshot of where and how stories are used. You need a super wide angle lens to capture the corporate storytelling landscape. Note also that stories transcend organization size.

Stories are not limited to lofty corporate wide applications. I've seen more "mundane" uses such as a start-up using a story in its business plan presentation to investors, a six sigma consulting company using stories to help their clients and government vendors using stories in their proposal applications.

 Coors Molson uses stories in developing leaders. A mentor meets with a group of aspiring leaders and starts the meeting with a story about a leadership topic. Group members share their stories and learn from each other.
 Jet Propulsion Labs using storytelling sessions to capture and transfer tacit knowledge.
 Tom's Of Maine uses stories of responsible manufacturing, health foods and authenticity to build their brand.
 3M Company is currently using stories as part of its business planning to generate excitement and commitment. Their strategic stories set the stage, introduce dramatic conflict and outline the challenges the company is facing, and reach a resolution, which outlines the organization's approach to the future.
 IBM preps its executives on how to get just the right kinds of stories to tell and retell.
 Physician Sales & Service (PSS) employees chuckle whenever their CEO tells a story about a bad bank relationship. And they learn, or relearn, an important lesson: No matter how badly other people treat you, no matter how confident you get about your future, never burn your bridges. The power of this story inside PSS also offers a lesson about leadership itself: In the new world of business, where it's every executive's job to make sense of a fast-changing environment, storytelling is the ultimate leadership tool.
 ? Noel Tichy in workshops with clients such as Ameritech, Royal Dutch/Shell, Coca-Cola, and US West. Business leaders, he says, need "a teachable point of view-a set of ideas about success in the marketplace and a set of values based on personal and organizational success." The best way to communicate that point of view is through a story"6
 The Corporate Story can be used in a number of ways. Human Resource Departments can include it in their orientation package, sharing with new employees all the hopes, struggles, and accomplishments the company has undergone over the years. This gives employees a sense of belonging, a feeling of being a part of something that has substance, and that in turn gives them a sense of security and pride. ...

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See Also This Related BrainMass Solution

How can forecasting improve the budgeting process for an experienced publishing firm? Interesting True Story

Regardless of the type of business, and in this case, I am using the example of an entrepreneur who has just passed their 21st year in the publishing business. Unfortunately, they were unable to cover their fixed costs and ran into a net operating loss (NOL) for the year. How could this entrepreneur budget for success this year?

The company's budget? They use historical data from prior years to anticipate shortfalls.

As, forecasting provides goals and courses of action, what can this business owner do to turn his company around by using a sound budget?

Last year, between the months of October to April, s/he paid her vendors late (at least 90+), always running into the situation of having to pay C.O.D. or else her paper, ink, and other printing needa (vital supplies for a publishing company) would not be delivered, and production would have to slow, thus causing undue strain on her customers. S/he eventually paid each vendor off after an influx of cash between the months of May and September, but has since already tarnished her relationships with vendors who are historically unsympathetic and now threaten to leave.

S/he's had to spend extra time and labor to find new vendors until she could pay off the prior ones. In this case, she wasted labor and valuable time.

In terms of labor, s/he employs 13 Full Time individuals in administration including the VP, Customer Service Manager, Sales Manager, Sales men/women, and the one new accountant. 13 part-time workers are in the print shop, working more when demand is high, and less during others.

The horror to the new accountant is that she calculates the cash position daily, and payroll is barely able to be met on several occassions, not to mention she's having to scmooze the vendors and collection companies that keep harrasing her.

The owner is touted by the entire company as having the best luck in the world, by just being able to make ends meet, but this shouldn't be the case. Employee morale continues to decline and many speak of leaving the company because of the financial situation. Many are suspicious if their jobs will last.

The owner has even made mention of getting into pornographic publications to bring in more revenue even though s/he doesn't wish to.

*** ADDITIONAL INFORMATION ***

From a forecasting standpoint, there are undoubtedly, decisions to be made that involve judging the future course of the business and the economy. They may include whether or whether not to:

1. expand internationally
2. expand regionally or locally
3. increase or decrease the product mix
4. change the product mix based on demographics
5. respond to fad, fashion or other expected market changes
6. spin out sections of the business
7. change the ratio of debt to equity structure
8. restructure long term debt based on interest rate forecasts
9. change employee benefit programs
10. change product pricing
11. make investments in equipment, building or even other companies

The budget process comes along behind the forecasting issues.

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