We don’t have enough finales

I took my daughter to a children’s creativity festival this past weekend.   It’s a great little festival called ‘Just So’, now in its third year, combining painting, storytelling, music, magic, circus skills, den-building, crafts, drama, writing, pottery, getting very muddy and generally having a jolly good time.   Fun for us grown-ups desperately trying to hang on to our inner child too.   Anyway, we attended a talk by a children’s author.  She spoke about how to write stories and gave an insight into her personal style.   She explained that she always starts her one-page story plan at the bottom, with the finale –  imagining how the tale will end.  Will it be a sad ending, a happy ending or a cliff-hanger?    Then, she works backwards, creating a setting and a central character and adding a number of key ingredients – one of which was that the ‘hero’ should always have something that he/she very, very badly wants.    Another is that there should also be conflict.   So, in the way that my mind wanders, this got me thinking about our organisational stories, like delivering change programmes and meeting objectives.    Conclusion:  We don’t have enough finales in business.   We have all the ingredients of a good story –  colourful and heroic characters, a desire to achieve something, a call-to-action and plenty of conflict but we don’t have finales.   Our ‘endings’ are usually a list of bullet points from a business case setting out a (finger in the air) list of benefits, outcomes and cost-savings.    But what we should be aiming for is a finale– an eye-watering, soul-stirring, heart-lifting, air-punching, morale-boosting climax.   Organisations are great at starting things but terrible at ending them.    It’s one of the reasons most change programmes fail.   We don’t start with the finale.   I mean, we don’t articulate the ending in a way that drives the rest of the story.    So the lesson for communicators –  start at the bottom of the page by imagining the outcome of the change (or the strategy, or the project) as a finale.  Make it dramatic, emotional, colourful, inspirational and then work backwards, creatively filling in the gaps to author your own dramatic storyline.   Next week, how to build a den in the office (only joking).