Project Story Outlines 1

January 27, 2013 at 2:03 pm 2 comments

Following on from the types of message project stories might have from my last post, I’ve decided to work them up into story outlines.  The plan is that I’ll take the same setting for each story and show how they come out differently (assuming that they do).

I’ve decided to go for a four step story structure in each case.
Scene – Introduction to the setting and characters.  Room for foreshadowing
Development – how events and characters developed over time
Crux – the exciting climax
Outcome – epilgoue/resolution.

I’ve also include a note on the events in the story and the specific message of the story (as well as the general message type) to try and highlight how what happens in a story is different to what the story is about.

In this post I’ll just be concentrating on those types with the Project Manager as the main character.  Next post should be the ones with the organisation as main character.

Note: the following setting, project, people and organisation are all completely fictious.  I’ve made an effort to try and make sure it doesn’t reflect any project I’ve ever been a part of, though, as many projects share similar issues, hopefully there should be some aspects that resonate.

The Townsville Software Co has decided to implement a new Customer Relationship Management System.  Currently account managers manage contact with clients individually on a variety of systems and non-systems.  This project involved a cross-department project team including, marketing, sales, IT, as well as a project manager and officer from the company’s project office.  It was expected that an external system would be bought in, with bespoke modifications as necessary.
At the time the story is submitted, as part of the final report, the project is over deadline, has failed to deliver and the project team has disbanded.

Option 1
Type: Full disclosure – what the PM took away from the project
Events – The so-called project team refused to do anything towards the project.
Message – this team/organisation can’t work together!

Scene – Introducing each of the team members and their hang ups/the roadblocks they bring from the very beginning.  Also all the issues that were just mounding up waiting to happen.

Development – how it starts to go wrong: team members not showing up, not doing what they are asked, deliberately being argumentative and making things difficult.  Also there technical issues, but the focus is on how impossible it was to get anything done.

Crux – Got ridiculously over deadline.  Project meeting with only one project member aside from the PM meant time to call a halt to the project.

Outcome – This team cannot work together – PM gives up!

Option 2
Type: Promotion of the Project Manager
Events – The PM tried to hold it together as long as possible and worked really hard.
Message – The PM is great even in adversity.

Scene – PM does as much as possible to get the project team together (light on the specifics of how they do this apart from sending reminder emails) and starts what bits they can on their own.

Development – PM continues to get no help from team.  They try and try to get team together to no avail.  They start to do what work they can themselves even though it’s not their job.  Technical issues start to appear, but those were outside of the PMs remit.

Crux – PM tried did their best, but they are only one person and couldn’t keep up.

Outcome – PM has proved they are good at what they do so should continue to be put on to challenging projects.

Next post: How the organisation has changed, lessons learned and promotion of the project outputs.


Entry filed under: Digital storytelling, storytelling for projects.

And the moral of the story is… Project Story Outlines 2

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Chris Thomson (@cbthomson)  |  January 29, 2013 at 10:34 am

    This is really interesting. I think you mentioned in an earlier post about how difficult stories like this could be for an organisation (and individuals) to hear. These examples highlight that. Acceptance of these difficult stories really needs an organisation with an positive view of openness and honesty.

    You also point out how different interpretations can be made of one event. I wonder if one single story could support both interpretations at the same time. I had a conversation with someone last week about how the richness of stories accommodates this multi-layering, even in quite a limited amount of space. Although, that may not be your intention with these examples.

    I’m interested to see how you frame your story with the organisation as the main character. It’s definitely a tried and tested technique in literature but I’d be curious to hear your views on how that influences the impact of the story for an audience. Does it make it too abstract? If so, does that mean it’s easier for people to ignore the message?

    I don’t have a suggestion for that, just thinking aloud.

    • 2. jennifermdenton  |  January 29, 2013 at 10:49 am

      Even in organisations where they have quite a positive view of openness and would value this kind of information told informally, I’m not sure they would react the same way to having it documented. I could imagine paranoia about such stories getting out into the public domain – especially if they’re digital as anything online is seen as risky at the moment what with people getting arrested for facebook posts and discredited on twitter etc. I still reckon it’s still worth working on though, hence the blog etc 😛

      I like the idea of trying to layer some of these interpretations. It wasn’t what I had in mind for these examples, but I think I might give it a try in a future post. I was thinking of actually trying to create one of these as a digital story – maybe I’ll take a couple and try and get some of the depth. I imagine it like a Pixar film – made for kids, but with the depth for adults to enjoy. Made for potential public consumption, but with enough depth that an understanding management would be able to read between the lines.

      Hoping to have the next post up by the end of the week. I’m not sure what my own conclusions are yet, but hopefully I will be a step closer by then ^_^


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