Home

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

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.

25 views
4 comments
1 upvotes
Related Tags
Anonymous Author
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.
1 upvotes
Anonymous Author
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
1 upvotes
Anonymous Author
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.
0 upvotes
Anonymous Author
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.
0 upvotes