Your business is more complex than most realize

How do you know? How do you tell your story?

Organizations are inherently complex. They have many moving parts; thousands of actions and initiatives; competing dimensions that require constant balancing and tuning; continual demands to do more for less, while making transformational change. And that’s before you bring people into the mix with all of their different ways of working, agenda and motivations. It’s a challenge for management systems to support all this but they need to.

This raises two questions.

  1. Do your systems support the complexity of your business?
  2. How do you know?

Organizations tend to have multiple tool-kits they use to manage their business, often for historical reasons. It’s the way they’ve always done it and they haven’t had time to upgrade or rethink. This often means strategies get managed separately from projects and risks and benefits and a multitude of other elements. Teams then rely on trying to present a unified view by extracting information from different sources into a single management report which is then tabled at the Board and C-suite levels. Most admit this is an inefficient and costly process, and that the information is outdated by the time anyone sees it. This also assumes that the organization can continue to operate as a loose collective of discrete parts that somehow can be extruded together, rather than a cohesive ecosystem.

We think management systems are at their best when they support seamless, cohesive operation. This means operations and systems are intertwined and work beautifully together, and you’d have to believe good management teams always have this objective in mind. Assuming you achieve this, do you need to prove it to others, and if so, how?

Portraying your business as a balanced and well run organization is harder than it seems. Evidence can be hard to come by, even harder to assemble, and almost impossible to wrap the right context around it. It often comes down to how you present bad news, or not. Managers and staff don’t like receiving bad news. Nor do they like giving it. It makes sense if you reveal a problem you also reveal how you intend to solve it and some adopt this approach. Other simply tell their stakeholders that all is well and hope they can resolve any lingering issues before things blow up. The idea of telling but not showing seldom works in the longer term.

So what about the concept of ‘show and tell’ where the picture you present is supported by evidence and placed in a useful context, and is real-time. Is this possible? The answer is Yes, and is now critical as paper reaches its limits in business, as starkly illustrated during the Covid-19 pandemic lock-down.

The answer is Yes, and is now critical as paper reaches its limits in business, as starkly illustrated during the Covid-19 pandemic lock-down.

The overall concept is simple. The various parts of your management system come together to enable you to build the picture of your business and honour the true complexity of the business. You then paint the picture of your business though interactive Storyboards.

People always ask what’s the difference between Dashboards and Storyboards. Here’s how we see it. Dashboards are infographics which present information in interesting ways but they are static. They don’t allow you to drill into the supporting, source information. They can’t be interrogated. They are just a next-generation report.

The Legend Storyboards are very different. They present a real-time state-of-play across an organizational component such as a Business Group, Programme, or Project. The top-level of the Storyboard consists of a number of information bricks each of which tell part of the story. The bricks combined in a logical sequence then tell all of the high-level story. The Storyboards are used widely throughout the business and are constantly updating . One of the bonuses of ubiquity is that the Storyboards then become a defacto way to navigate around the software and your business. The beauty is that it doesn’t matter where you land you get a consistent view of how things are tracking.

They present a real-time state-of-play across an organizational component such as a Business Group, Programme, or Project.

Business solutions that do justice to the true complexity of your business can in themselves look so feature-complex that they become overwhelming and detract from their usability and uptake. Most software designers do not take this into account and rely on complex workflow to identify work obligations, or report extracts to report in some some form or another, or consulting support to glue things together using a range of heavy-duty methodologies. Invariably locating information through the software relies on finding hard-copy documents stored somewhere in a document management system, or drilling down through multiple layers to find a small piece of information.

Storyboards change all that both by eliminating the need for other untidy systems, and by turbocharging your data. In fact, Storyboards, because of their multi-function capability, paint the true picture of how well you are doing whether that’s at the strategic level or at any level of delivery. In our view, without Storyboards you really don’t know the state-of-play.

In simple terms, Storyboards ‘keep you honest’. And that can’t be a bad thing.

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