Leadership Storyboarding


People become leaders – by title – because they’re good at . . . well, leading.  Well, in addition to this… you also need to be good at organizing, counseling, and many other things.  

But for now, I just want to focus on organizing.

Organizing projects and processes, that is.

Organizing Formats

As a leader, when you are able to organize and plan well, this technical capability helps many other things in your world fall into place more much more easily.

When you are good at “organizing things,” you will  have less “managing” to do.

Every leader has their own particular twist on organization. These organizational manifestations may show up as:

  • Well-placed sticky notes
  • Outlook tasks on your email
  • Synthesized spreadsheets
  • Hierarchical to-do lists
  • Google Calendar flashing on your screen
  • MS Project nipping at your heels

Telling Your Story

But to help leaders better prioritize their efforts and convey their vision in a linear fashion for all others to see, I recomend a better set of tools to help them convey their thoughtful ideas to their teams. For many projects, I like to use a technique that isn’t thought of very often, if at all, but is extremely versatile.

What I recommend is something called storyboarding.

“Huh? “you might ask. “What are you, a cartoon writer?”

No, but that is usually the context in which you would hear about storyboarding.  I use storyboarding, not for cartoons, but to “draw” and plan out each step of a process.

I am then able to see each step, one at a time, while also considering the entire process.  As ideas or resources change, I can then eliminate or move things around at any time to keep an up-to-date picture of the entire project. I can continue to experiment with various orders of steps and ideas.

If you observe the way people read or listen to things you’ll realize that there aren’t many of us with a linear attention span.

Unless you are blind, visual information is much more interesting than verbal information.

Remember – a picture is worth a thousand words.


The storyboarding process actually started with Leonardo da Vinci but was revitalized and developed at the Walt Disney Studios in 1929 with the creation of Steamboat Willie. Since that time it has grown in popularity in movie and animation studios and has also moved into mainstream business.

Walt Disney World itself was planned exclusively via storyboarding in about 10 days.

Walt Disney and Mike Vance saw that storyboarding could be adapted effectively for business planning in a mode they termed “displayed thinking.”  Displayed thinking can be used for group problem-solving and strategic planning, such as in:

  • Decision Making
  • Strategic Planning
  • Decision Execution
  • Building Consensus and Buy-in
  • Processing Large Amounts of Information
  • Making the Plan Visible While it is Executed

There are 13 basic steps to the typical storyboarding process.  You can just as easily go through this yourself for an individual project as you can with a group for a larger project.  This is outlined well by the Iowa State University Extension:

1. State the Problem.

Be specific and concise.

2. Brainstorm and Post all Ideas.

Each idea is written in large letters on a separate card or piece of paper.

3. Share Ideas.

Participants talk about what they have written on the cards.

4. Review Each Card for Meaning.

Ask for clarification.

5. Sorting By Content.

In silence, participants begin sorting and grouping the items of similar content.

6. “Header Cards” Added.

Participants are given several “header cards” that are larger (and a different color) than the idea cards previously used.

7. Total Group Discusses the Groupings.

There may be a need to break some of the topics into smaller sub-topics.

8. “Symptoms” vs. “Causes.”

The focus should be on the root causes of the problem, not causes.

9. Vote for Consensus.

The group identifies the top three or four ideas.

10. Restate Header Cards Using A Verb.

Replace a noun with a verb.

11. Subtier Actions.

If subtier actions are necessary, post them under the header cards.

12. Assign Completion Date.

Assign a completion date to each item.

13. Post Dates and Name of Person Responsible.

Post dates and the name of the person responsible for each action item.

Remember what I said earlier about the way people think . . . “Tell” instructions and half of them will be forgotten – tell a story and it will remembered.

How do you involve your staff in process development?  Do you have effective process development?  Would you rather hear it, or see it?


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Andy Uskavitch is Leadership Development at Florida Blood Services
He develops and facilitates Leadership, Motivation & Teambuilding Seminars
Email | LinkedIn | Facebook | Twitter | Blog |  (727) 568-5433

Image Sources: designcouncil.org.uk

One response to “Leadership Storyboarding

  1. I for one like to see it, hear it and touch it, usually in that order:
    — show me your proposal as overview
    — talk me through it
    — give me the proposal to review in detail…

    Your suggestion to use storyboarding as a leadership resource is a great idea — much like the process of gantt charting, it requires participation and choice-making by the very folks who will be asked to “make it so”. And that’s a good thing!


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