What’s your advice for engaging the board when asked to “simplify the narrative”?

1.8k views1 Upvote5 Comments

CISO in Software, 51 - 200 employees
I've presented to a bunch of boards at various companies. I was always last and by the time I got up there, all the board members would be on their phones because nobody understood IT. But then I found this author, Dan Roam, who draws everything in simple pictures. He can tell a story around anything and get complex ideas across through drawings. When I went into the boardroom after that, I would just write on the whiteboard and say, "We're doing this project and here's everybody who is involved." I’d draw a whole matrix of who, what, where, why, when, how, and how much the whole thing will cost.

I could take any project and go over who's involved, where we are today, what we’re going to do, how we’ll get there, and the timeline we’ll do it in. That made a big difference: all of a sudden the board members were chiming in with, "Well, what if we did this instead?" Or, "I think this person should be involved, too." And we could just add those points to the diagram. It was much more dynamic when I was talking to them and I barely had to go through my slides.

At one company, this evolved to the point that when they had a board meeting, they would say, "We're trying to get through this problem, can you get that guy who draws stuff?" Even if they didn't remember my name, I got to join the board meetings and help them draw out how we would solve whatever problem they were dealing with. It was a lot of fun.
VP, Chief Security & Compliance Officer in Software, 1,001 - 5,000 employees
You have to love when they say, "You have to simplify your narrative. It's just too complex." If I’m telling you the bad guy was at the front door, how much simpler can I make this narrative? I'm still navigating that part of the journey. Being able to flip the narrative based on which line of business you're working with is a nuanced skill that I'm still trying to polish.
1 Reply
VP - Head of Information Technology in Software, 1,001 - 5,000 employees

I hate the phrase, "in the weeds." Board members will say, "You're too in the weeds," when the reality is that I was in the weeds because there are dead bodies in the weeds. They’re flying at 50,000 ft so they can't see them, but from where I'm flying, I see them every day. I also hate when they tell you to be more strategic and what they're describing is a tactical approach. These days, I just refer them to the book Good Strategy, Bad Strategy by Richard Rumelt. 

VP - Head of Information Technology in Software, 1,001 - 5,000 employees
It's about giving context and having the empathy to figure out what your audience understands. It's hard and it requires a lot of work. Just trying to manage how people perceive what's going on becomes your full-time job.
Chief Information Officer in Manufacturing, 10,001+ employees
Understand who your audience is and when possible, develop a relationship with them. Relationships go along way and the right words help to drive the decisions that are needed to drive change

Content you might like


Greater than 50%54%


Less than 50%15%




Director of Systems Operations in Healthcare and Biotech, 10,001+ employees
By far the best place for me to travel was Shanghai. Loved the city and the vibe. Singapore is also an amazing place to have to be stationed for work.
Read More Comments
2.1k views2 Upvotes2 Comments