Storyboarding

Planning and Checking a Process as a Team

Storyboarding - Planning and Checking a Process as a Team

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Build your process step by step.

OK, you've just finished a long planning session for a new initiative, but you can't shake off the feeling that you've forgotten something important.

Then it hits you. There's a critical flaw in the plan, and now you're going to have to schedule another meeting to do the whole thing all over again. Does this sound familiar?

It's a terrible feeling, and one that we've probably all experienced. We might have avoided this problem, however, if we had used a simple planning tool that the film industry has relied on for decades: the storyboard.

What Are Storyboards?

In the film industry, storyboards are used to plan out an entire movie, shot by shot, before filming actually begins. For example, the storyboard for Scene One opens with a sketch of what the first shot, or camera angle, will look like. The next shot, from a different angle, is shown in the next image on the storyboard. With each new camera shot or action, a new image is added.

In a business environment, it's the same idea. But instead of making a movie, you might be planning a product launch, managing a project, creating a marketing strategy, building a new process, or identifying a cause-and-effect relationship.

Your storyboard, then, would detail each step in the process. But instead of using words and writing out a to-do list, your storyboard allows you to see everything that must happen, and in what order. As a group, your team creates a detailed outline of the steps that need to be taken. Then they work to spot problems, identify complications, and rearrange tasks as necessary. Storyboards are easy to change, so they encourage creativity and experimentation, and they can be very effective in the planning process.

Storyboarding for Business

Storyboards are also useful for building group unity and agreement, and teams that use them tend to find it easier to make decisions. This is because everyone can get involved, and there's a much greater level of enthusiasm and commitment.

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Storyboards work because they tell a story in a visual way. When people have something to look at, it's much easier to understand concepts, interpret diagrams or charts, and visualize the future.

It doesn't matter if it's a movie plot or the story of your company's new product. Storyboards can change any kind of data into something living and dynamic. They can turn the sometimes boring process of planning into an interactive, fun experience for everyone involved.

How to Use Storyboards for Business Planning

Creating a storyboard isn't as hard as it might seem. In this section we give you step-by-step instructions, and then show you an example, so you can see the process of storyboarding in action.

1. Lay Out Your Steps

Brainstorm what you are trying to achieve, and then write out the steps that you must take to accomplish your goal.

Many people find that sticky notes help in this process. You may want to reorder steps later, or you may remember steps that you've missed out initially, and sticky notes allow you to pick up and rearrange information easily.

2. Put Your Steps in Order

Put the steps that you noted down in Step 1 in the right sequence.

3. Create Your Sublevels

Some actions in a storyboard will be made up of a series of smaller actions. Here, it might help to create a sublevel storyboard for these more involved steps. This helps to ensure that you don't miss a key piece of the process.

4. Look for Problems and Obstacles

As each new step is put into your storyboard, encourage the team to look for "holes" and problems in the process. This is especially important between steps. Why? Because between steps is where surprises (in other words, problems) could be hiding. Problems within the steps themselves are easier to spot.

This is why storyboards are so valuable. You can see each piece of the puzzle, and how all the pieces interact – so you're more likely to spot issues before they arise.

Tip:

You can structure your storyboard any way you like. Some models show the final outcome on the left, and the steps flow from right to left toward it. Others use a vertical approach: the outcome is at the top, and the steps come up from the bottom to support it. Or you can use the film industry's model, with one frame after another in a line, running from left to right.

Example: Creating a Newsletter

Let's see how you can use a storyboard to plan the process of creating a newsletter for your business.

1. Lay Out Your Steps

This is what you need to do for your newsletter:

  • Create a design.
  • Brainstorm a topic.
  • Develop the content.
  • Do the mailing.

2. Put Your Steps in Order

Here's the logical sequence for these steps:

  1. Brainstorm a topic.
  2. Develop the content.
  3. Create a design.
  4. Do the mailing.

3. Create Your Sublevels

When you look at the above steps, you can see that you need sublevels for three of your four steps:

  1. Develop the content:
    • Hire a copywriter.
    • Manage the copywriter's delivery.
    • Choose images to support the content.
  2. Create a design:
    • Hire a designer.
    • Lay out the newsletter.
    • Proofread the final copy.
  3. Do the mailing:
    • Create your mailing list.
    • Print the final copies.
    • Stuff and address envelopes.
    • Mail the envelope.

4. Look for Problems and Obstacles

You've experienced variable standards of copywriting in the past, so you know that you need to focus on finding the right person for the job. 

Your team decides to try out two different copywriters with the first newsletter, and then choose the one who produces the best material.

Because each major task is broken down into smaller, more manageable pieces, nothing is left out – and the whole project looks less complicated and more robust.

Tip:

See also our articles on Affinity Diagrams, Flowcharting, Swim Lane Diagrams, Failure Modes and Effects Analysis and Work Breakdown Structures, all of which do similar jobs, and have different strengths and different weaknesses.

The relative advantage of storyboarding is the way in which it's designed to be used in a group setting, with discussion of each step.

Key Points

When you're faced with a big project or key decision, a storyboard can help you to think the problem through. This can prevent you from feeling overwhelmed by everything that you and your team must accomplish, and to identify and plan for the key problems that may arise.

By working together, you can brainstorm action steps, put them in the correct order, and discuss them to make sure that you've considered everything, and that your process is robust.

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Comments (7)
  • Over a month ago Midgie wrote
    Hi makistar,
    A very warm welcome to the Club! There is no need to feel embarrassed about not knowing something as we are all continually learning new things.

    I encourage you to come on over to the Career Cafe area in the forums and post this question there to see what other members have to offer. We learn so much from each other in the Forums by asking questions, sharing experiences and ideas.

    If there is anything we can help with, just let us know.

    Midgie
    Mind Tools Team
  • Over a month ago makistar wrote
    Hi everyone. i feel a little embarrassed, although I am reading this informative piece I cannot comprehend how to apply the storyboard process. Is there a vid clip that could show an example of how to do a storyboard? Thank u.
  • Over a month ago Midgie wrote
    Hi Jon,
    Welcome to the Club. Glad to see you jump straight in. I hope to see you more around the Forums and in the Cafe area with thoughts, ideas and questions.

    If there is anything I can help you with, just let me know.
    Midgie
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