Last week I mentioned that I have been working on some huge stories lately, and that these have been instructive in many ways.

One of the most comforting is that even huge stories look simple when they are done: it's just that the process for getting there isn't so simple.

By trusting the process and the structures and continuing to ask ‘Why?' when it didn't look right, we landed a super simple story that packed a powerful punch.

Here are two key takeaways from our experience:

  1. Trust the storylining process and structures together with your instincts to land the story
  2. Keep asking ‘Why?' to make what is obvious to you obvious to your audience

On the surface, these two ideas appear simple too. Trust me when I tell you that our heads really hurt after our session even though our story looked incredibly simple too.


Trust the process and structures together with your instincts to land the story. If I reflect back on why we were able to land a simple and clear message for the $1bn savings story, it was because the stakes were too high if we did not.

The team could not afford to have the Minister ‘unpick' the messaging given they wanted a major shift away from the Minister's preferred approach for prioritising investment initiatives.

So, the challenge was to find a high-level structure that resonated and to deliver it with precision and skill, listening both to our instincts as well as our structures.

We chose a Close The Gap deductive structure, and relied heavily on the finer detail within the deductive modules supported by The So What Strategy and the Ten Point Test to bring it home.

While it took a while to agree on the high level structural pattern, it took much longer to make it ‘sing'.


Keep asking ‘Why?' to make what is obvious to you obvious to your audience. The key that turned the lock for us was the answer to the age-old ‘dumb question': Why?

Why was the team's approach better than the approach that the Minister was wedded to?

This proved challenging and took quite some time to articulate as the team was so close to the problem and to their solution, which highlights a common challenge we all face.

By the time we write our stories, we are ‘sold', so we want to move to how we will deliver the new program / project / or whatever we are discussing.

However, our audience isn't there yet which means we need to shift our own heads back in time to surface our own reasoning.

This is why it was so hard to say that ‘the greatest chance of successfully improving X system while cutting expenditure is ensuring that the division heads ‘own' the approach.

On the surface that is so simple it's almost silly. However, trust me when I tell you it wasn't easy to get there.

I suspect you are familiar with the challenge, which is why I thought it might be helpful to raise it here.

So, in terms of next steps for you: I encourage you to think about opportunities within your own communication where you need to persist to articulate the ‘right why'.

Wishing you a great week.

Kind regards,


Keywords: deductive storylines, Close the Gap


I love what I do.

I help senior leaders and their teams prepare high-quality papers and presentations in a fraction of the time.

This involves 'nailing' the message that will quickly engage decision makers in the required outcome.

I leverage 25+ years' experience including

  • learning structured thinking techniques at McKinsey in Hong Kong in the mid 1990s before coaching and training their teams globally as a freelancer for a further 15 years
  • being approved to teach the Pyramid Principle by Barbara Minto in 2009
  • helping CEOs, C-suite leaders and their reports deeply understand their stakeholder needs and communicate accordingly
  • seeing leaders cut the number of times they review major papers by ~30% and teams cut the amount of time they take to prepare major papers by ~20%*
  • watching senior meetings focus on substantive discussions and better decisions rather than trying to clarify the issue

My approach helps anyone who needs to engage senior leaders and Boards.

Recent clients include 7Eleven, KPMG, Mercer, Meta, Woolworths.

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(*) Numbers are based on 2023 client benchmarking results.