Several years ago, I was invited to help a semiconductor organisation facilitate a quality transformation program. The mission – to eliminate preventable, human-error induced incidents that were impacting shipment and client retention. The data was clear – a 1% improvement would add millions to the bottom line. The program was equally straightforward – get everyone to submit their incident prevention ideas on how we could eliminate such excursions. Surely everyone could see how it made sense to participate.

When the heads of departments and section managers walked into the workshop, the air was thick with pessimism. The rumblings were clear – “they won’t even follow SOPs, how to get them to give ideas?”

The change team had meticulously prepared a PowerPoint presentation laden with data and graphs. The deck was hardly required.

After the senior VP’s welcome, a quietly-spoken engineer, well-respected by everyone in the room stood up to address his seniors. He shared how he had been the engineer assigned to analyse and produce the report on the most recent “high profile” incident. It had taken him and a colleague three months of 16-hour days to get to the root of the issue. That incident had coincided with the arrival of his first-born. He shared how he’d trudge home every night to see his wife and newborn in bed, and how he’d rise and leave before they did.

He recounted how he’d gotten to “know” his colleague so well that when he walked into a room, he could tell he’d been there simply through the familiar odour in the air. He’d missed his child’s wet nappies, first chuckle and bath time. It was time he would never get back again. Looking into the eyes of his colleagues, he made a simple, heartfelt appeal “Please support this program. It MUST work. I don’t want anyone to go through what I did”.

You could have heard a pin drop. That story had lasted but 5 minutes. It was from the heart. And it moved hearts. And importantly, that translated into urgent action. 18 months later, one of the foundries reported a key milestone – zero incidents over a 365-day period.

Free Online Session in June 2021

They say a picture tells a thousand words, and a story, a thousand pictures. Story-telling is a master aptitude of leaders and influencers. Which would help you be a more effective change leader – mastering PowerPoint or the art of story-telling?  Join me in the free online session ‘Story-telling Skills to Capture Hearts and Minds’ on 11 June 2021 to get insights into why story-telling is such a powerful tool, and how you can incorporate it into your business and technical presentations to make them memorable.

Dominic Siow
CEO/Co-founder, EQ Strategist and Amazon Best-Selling Author