Talkin’ loud, saying something

“..knowledge only travels when it’s interesting and memorable enough for someone to retell your story.” Sam Villis

Not for the first time Sam nails it. I was sorry to miss her session at Govcamp last weekend (I was probably gossiping in the corridor as per..) but she wrote up her workshop in beautiful detail. The topic of which was getting team to think about the narrative around their work – through the medium of a children’s story. This is a reproducible workshop that I hope spreads like colds on the Tube.

I love reading about the theory of storytelling – trying to structure talks around the ‘hero’s journey’ is one of my go-to moves. Finding a way for people to engage with and to care about your project is key to the success of any big (or small for that matter!) transformation/change activity.

It feels like this is one of the things that has gone backwards in recent years. Having comms people embedded in ‘digital transformation’ seems like a rarity these days – like a luxury. Whereas in traditional ‘change programmes’ it felt like more of a core role. 

This isn’t even my usual soap box about being open (though that wouldn’t hurt!). This is about successful – internal – communications that ensures everybody is on the same page, working towards a common (understood) goal, where the information flow and quality of the collaboration counteracts the rumour mill and misinformation.

Teams should be able to wax lyrical on why they are doing something as well as what they are doing. At least to some extent.

This needs thought. Everything from email, Slack, meetings, show and tells to blogposts and conference talks need consideration. It doesn’t just happen.

Look at this guide to internal communications from Basecamp. I don’t agree with it all (I never do with them somehow – there is never any grey with my relationship with the advice from DHH, Jason Fried et al!) but it is thoughtful and focused on their needs as a team.

Read this from Giles when he was at Defra about ‘agile communications’. I mean I hate the title. It isn’t ‘agile communications’ as much as ‘communications for agile teams’ but it is a treasure trove. Giving the impression that ‘informal’ comms just happens from these projects is a lot of work and needs to be acknowledged. It isn’t a side hustle.

Steve wrote a great post on the power of blogging about projects and your work.  My thoughts on the power of this kind of openness is well established but it doesn’t have to start there. Write weeknotes on Slack or Teams. Put together blogposts for intranets or Confluence. Hone the narrative (honestly and transparently) and build on it.

As is established I love a sticker. The same with the posters that decorate so many digital enclaves across public service. They are more than just fun though. Talking of posters Giles (again) said;

“..they’re a useful way of getting simple messages out to large numbers of people. They help to reinforce concepts you’ve introduced in other ways, or to introduce new ideas to people who’ve not encountered them before.”

..and on the topic of stickers Annie recently wrote a great blogost on their power beyond brightening up laptop lids.

Another useful session at Govcamp related to this was about ‘show and tells’. Proposed by Ert from dxw (who had recently been involved in a painful one by the sounds of things) these regular agile meetings have really emerged as the front-line in the world of communications for agile teams. They take work though and again this isn’t always acknowledged. The growing expectation that they will be recorded, made available after the fact, streamed live for remote viewing, that the team can respond to un-moderated, un-facilitated questions from all comers makes them high pressure undertakings….and most teams are doing them every two weeks!

There is great advice out there for improving the presentation element (see doingpresentations.com from Russell et al) and Emily has really useful advice about kit on her blog but I think there is so much more we could share as a community here about good practice and pitfalls to avoid. Not least how you shift things from talking through the completed tasks in your backlog to something that tells a story that builds each time. If the advice is ‘Show the Thing’ why do we end up showing so many slides.  

So to circle back to Sam’s amazing blogpost. Start telling more memorable stories and make it easier for people to care.

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