So how do you sell your ideas? One of the best ways is to tell a good story. And how do you do that? Around 2300 years ago Aristotle suggested that all good stories are told in 3 acts. Since then, virtually all enduring and compelling stories have been told using this dramatic structure. Once you understand the Aristotelian 3-act structure it's easier to put together a good story and thus a more effective report out.
Act I (variously called Exposition, Setup, or Introduction) is where we're introduced to the protagonist, the hero of the story. We learn about her plight, her circumstances, and we generally become sympathetic. After drawing us in, Act I concludes at Plot Point #1 (also called the Inciting Incident or First Turning Point.) Think Vito Corleone getting shot in The Godfather or Dorothy opening her front door onto the technicolor land of Oz in The Wizard of Oz. ("Toto, I don't think we're in Act I anymore.") The protagonist's life is now forever changed, but he does not yet have the ability to solve his dilemma.
In Act II (called Confrontation, Character Development, or Rising Action) we experience the hero's journey. We learn about the forces of antagonism arrayed against her, and we watch as she transforms into a higher state of ability, often with the aid of a co-protagonist. At the end of Act II the transformation is complete, the protagonist has attained a higher level of awareness, and we have Plot Point #2 (or The Second Turning Point.) Think Luke Skywalker taking off to rescue his friends in the cloud city in Star Wars, or the stirring rendition of Gonna Fly Now when Rocky finally makes it to the top of the Philadelphia Art Museum steps in Rocky. This plot point is often preceded by a Moment of Crisis in which all hope seems lost, like when we see George Bailey desperately praying for his old life back on the bridge in It's a Wonderful Life.
Finally in Act III we have the Resolution. This features the Climax (or Crisis), the final showdown in which the hero's dilemma is confronted and resolved leaving him forever transformed. Think Sarah Connor's fight with a relentless cyborg at the end of The Terminator. This is followed by the Dénouement (or Falling Action) in which any final loose ends are tied up and any remaining questions answered. You can see this in the final bar scene between Tom Cruise and Kelly McGillis in Top Gun. This allows the story tension to wind down and provides the opportunity for a syrupy ending or possibly a hint at a sequel.
So, how can you apply this storytelling arc to your next kaizen event report out? Here's my take:
ACT I: This is your setup. You need to draw your audience in by explaining the situation that led up to this kaizen and why your team is passionate about improving it. Create empathy in the audience by underscoring the importance of your efforts. Tension should begin building as you explain the problem, leading up to your first turning point: your stretch goal. "We set out to reduce inventory by 75%!" "Our team's goal was to cut lead time in half!" Now it's clear in your audience's minds exactly what the challenge is that you faced, but they have no idea how you can solve it.
ACT II: This should be your hero's journey. You need to create rising tension in your audience by explaining the sequence of events that took place during the kaizen. "We went to gemba, followed an invoice through the system, and mapped the process..." "We called 25 recent customers and gave them a phone survey about our product..." The trick here is to explain the process in a local flow without getting into unnecessary detail. The audience should understand not only what you did but the challenges you faced along the way. Every story's protagonist needs an antagonist to root against, whether it be entrenched thinking, organizational red tape, physical walls, or whatever. This journey and confrontation will culminate in your second turning point. This is that big "a-ha" moment when all of the pieces fell into place, and the solution began to take shape. "The team discovered that it took 12 people to process a change order, and half of them didn't even want to be involved..." "The value stream map showed that our 3-week lead time contained only 10 minutes of actual value-added work..." Now you've set the audience up for the big finale.
ACT III: This is the resolution, the big moment of monumental change. "We created a daily stand-up meeting between accounts payable and procurement to review rejected invoices..." "We eliminate 18 pages of redundant paperwork..." Now that the tension has built to a fever pitch, you hit them with the climax, the results. "The rate of sales lead generation is now double!" "We've reduced the turn-around time for repairs from 8 days to 2 hours!" Then after the applause dies down you can wind down with the dénouement, in which you layout the go-forward plan and answer any questions.
If you follow the 3-act structure, you'll tell a better story and as a result will be more likely to sell your audience: to sell them on the changes, to sell them on your abilities, and to sell them on future improvements.
"People have forgotten how to tell a story.
Stories don't have a middle and an end anymore.
They usually have a beginning that never stops beginning."