Beyond Agile (1/52): Importance of Storytelling
The one overlooked skill every TPM needs and no, it's not building a Gantt chart.
Storytelling is as old as time.
It is how we have communicated ideas, thoughts, vision, monumental movements throughout human history.
Every action we take as Technical Program Managers requires storytelling. It is not just a skill that Product Managers need to know.
Even our project plans tell a story that “we are confident about what we need to build and here is how we are going to do it”.
Every time we communicate with leadership either via written or spoken avenue, there is a response we want to elicit, either one of urgency, to move them to act, or to inform - it is all storytelling.
As you grow as a TPM, it is important you improve your storytelling skills.
Now, what does storytelling mean when we are building software or a consumer hardware product?
This isn't about writing Booker Prize winning masterpiece.
Storytelling is about keeping things to the important facts, the order in which we communicate those facts, and focusing the facts towards a desired response.
When we communicate risk, we need to make sure that the data we present communicates what went wrong, why it happened, how we will fix it, and what it will cost us.
When we communicate a change, we need to show the from → to of the world, why leadership should care about this change, who wins what, and what it will cost both in capital (human and financial) and operationally (how will we build products in this new world).
When we communicate schedule delays, we talk first about how much delay is anticipated, what are our options and trade offs including accepting the delay (doing nothing), and what is the recommendation of the team.
In storytelling, what we choose not to talk about is as important as what we choose to talk about.
When we are discussing a schedule delay, it is more important spend time on what the options/solutions are and focus less on the why we are here or how.
When we write status, if the project is on track then something as simple as “On Track” is more than sufficient.
When an escalation happens, it is important focus on facts what is the issue and what is the path forward, instead of who or what messed up.
Developing your storytelling skill will require time and practice, like all art forms. So, if you focus your energy on one thing to improve your project management skills in 2022, make it storytelling.
Until next time.
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