6 May 2010
Word count: 625
Word count: 625
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
Image by aye shamus
upon a time…
Once upon a time…
There was a corporate training department. The department’s trainers were highly qualified and had many years of experience. Members of the various training teams in the department came from a range of business backgrounds, including customer service, business operations, technical systems, management and sales.
One day the Head of Training called the managers of the Customer Service and Sales teams to her office to discuss a new training project that would support the company’s strategic plans for increasing product sales. She instructed them to prepare a selling skills training plan for frontline staff. They were to present the plan to her at the end of the month, two weeks away.
They had some problems
Problem number one – the time element. Two weeks isn’t very long to devise a major training plan.
Problem number two – the expertise element. Even though trainers on the Sales team had relevant experience in sales training, most of them had not done frontline sales for several years. And the Customer Service trainers very little sales experience at all.
What were they to do?
They had to work smart and fast.
They began with information gathering. Some trainers met with senior managers to discuss the business strategy in more detail. Others met with product teams designing the new products and with marketing staff preparing the product launches. Yet others met with frontline sales staff to find out what kind of training they felt they needed most.
They combined all the information they had gathered and came up with a training plan that would support the company’s sales objectives.
By the end of the two weeks – and after a fair amount of overtime – they met with the Head of Training and presented their training plan for her to consider.
Do you recognise the story’s structure?
Storytelling is an age-old form, an oral tradition that came long before writing.
The structure of a story is a natural part of our thought processes. It’s how our brains are ‘wired’ to take in new information and deal with life events. It’s how we remember stories our parents and grandparents told us from years past, and it’s how we teach our children.
You probably use this structure most of the time without even thinking about it.
Take advantage of that natural structure
We can use the natural story structure in our written communication to make it easier to organise and easier for readers to follow.
Let’s take closer look at it:
1. It starts with something we know—something that’s familiar. Once upon a time, there was a corporate training department.
2. It often follows with more background – what happened next. One day the Head of Training called the managers from the Customer Service and Sales teams to her office to discuss a new training project…
3. Then comes the unfamiliar (new) part—something that makes the ‘familiar’ unstable in some way. It changes the situation and creates the need for change. They had some problems… timing and expertise…
4. Next comes the way that the participants in the story deal with that instability. They began with information gathering.
5. And finally, it ends with the unstable situation becoming stable again. The process might involve minor tweaks or major changes or lessons learned. By the end of the two weeks – and after a fair amount of overtime – they met with the Head of Training and presented a training plan for her to consider.
The story continues…
In the next post, we’ll look at some more examples of this structure and we’ll examine how to use it to prepare a ‘written dialogue’ with your readers, something that will grab their attention and keep them engaged.