And the moral of the story is…

January 17, 2013 at 1:25 pm 1 comment

Every story needs to be about something.  Not the events that happen, but the purpose behind the story, the reason why the reader should continue and the message they will take away from it. The problem with writing a story about a project, as I’ve mentioned before, is they are generally messier things than you want to admit to bosses or clients.

I had been thinking of the Project Manager or the Project Team as the main characters of a story about a project, but, arguably, the point of a project is to produce the deliverables.  So if the deliverables are what the story is about, then that makes the organisation itself the main character as it is what is going through the change.  Interestingly that probably makes the project manager (and team) the antagonist who is forcing this change…Kind of an anti-villian rather than an anti-hero – an antagonist making the main character change for their own good…

But what is a project story about?  I reckon I’ve thought of a few basic types of reason for a project story.

Full disclosure of what you will take away from this project

Main character: PM/Team

You give the full account of the personal, professional and technical demons faced, what you will take away from the project.  This has the virtue of probably being more exciting the more difficult the project was, but would need to be handled carefully.

Example: “Should not have tried to engage with X department/person/organisation and done their work myself from the beginning”

How the organisation has changed

Main character: Organisation

The purpose of any project is change and as long as you’ve succeeded in some part of it something must have changed.  Focus on before and after, the changes your organisation has gone through, rather than what was supposed to change or how difficult it was for the team.  What did the organisation have to go through to make that change?

Example: “A change in a significant system is not fast, but the organisation is now more efficient.”

Lessons learned

Main character: Organisation

This is sort of a way to get away with Full Disclosure some reduced risk.  The point is to tell how  the organisation have learned lots of new things that will make project run smoother in the future.  You may have learned these through interesting means, but by focussing on the change in the organisation you might be able to make it a bit less personal.

Unfortunately higher-ups will probably want to know more than just the lessons learned.  This would probably work best for a experimental/pilot project or a failed project.

Example: “Failures in process highlighted and process changed for next time.”

Promotion of the PM/Team

Main character: PM/Team

Self serving, but in some respects relatively safe.  Focus on how well you/your team did rather than how anything was bad.  Likely to be dull and most project directors will see right through it, but I’ve known managers at previous jobs who’ve got away with this approach.

Example: “We are just that amazing that everything went perfectly.”

Promotion of the outputs

Main character: Organisation

This is a bit more like a scenario – instead of reviewing the project at all just look at the future and tell the story of how the outputs will effect the organisation.

Example: “These great new things will cause these great effects”

There’s got to be more types of purpose for a project story – would love to hear any anyone else can think of.  Although I think I will have a go at writing up some story outlines to go with these next.


Entry filed under: Digital storytelling, storytelling for projects.

Detracting from storytelling and Guitar Hero Project Story Outlines 1

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. benthamfish  |  January 19, 2013 at 9:56 am

    I have a strong suspicion that JISC ought to be interested in this ‘story about digital story-telling’. I’m now wondering how we can increase the audience for your story!


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