Monday, April 02, 2007

CEOs like stories

Conventional wisdom tells us that CEOs are bottom-line oriented. If you can't reduce it to numbers for them, it doesn't exist. I disagree with that characterization. I believe that CEOs hunger for non-quantitative information, but typical means of communication are too boring, time-consuming and contextless to provide them much value.

So what works? Stories. (Don't laugh--this is why I didn't post this yesterday, on April Fools' Day.) Stories are brief, detailed, vivid and provide context. Imagine this conversation:

CEO: We had to slam the Heltech merger in. What's the impact been on morale?

Division VP: It's been a bit of a struggle. There have been issues.

CEO: Such as?

Division VP: Well, for instance, there was the customer who got called on by two salespeople, one Heltech and one of our guys, and chewed out our guy for not being coordinated. He's our best sales guy, and got really upset by that.

CEO: Anything else?

Division VP: The websites got combined right away, but not the call centers, so a Heltech center started getting calls for our old products, and couldn't help, and there weren't good handoff procedures yet. So I got a bunch of angry customer calls. One said she was going to tell her CIO to start an RFP process to find a replacement. I think I got her calmed down, but we'll see.

CEO: OK, I get it. What do you think we need to do at this point?

Total elapsed time: less than 2 minutes. Information conveyed: terabytes. In these two brief stories, the CEO has gotten the message that they need to quickly fix the remaining integration issues. Think a stack of PowerPoint slides could've done that?

(Photo from scyza via stock.xchng)