Using Your Strategic Narrative To Resolve Or Prevent Conflicts

Your company strategic narrative is your most precious asset.


Your strategic narrative is the glue that keeps people working together. Therefore, it is indispensable to achieve a common opportunity through challenges and triumphs.

To cooperate, our species needs to believe in myths, the creation of our collective imagination.

For instance, to co-found companies, we need to imagine things that don't physically exist, like a legal entity, an organization, the culture we will build, or our impact on the world if we succeed.

Without a shared company narrative, we can't function. If there is no narrative in the first place, there is no company. So we depend on it. It is a strategic imperative, one that I call a strategic narrative.

Conflicts prove the point.

When tensions and conflicts occur, we're not on the same page with our business partners and colleagues. Everyone runs according to divergent narratives. Agendas collide, confusion takes over, and we can't be productive anymore. The risk is to create so much misalignment that the company will turn dysfunctional. This is something I experienced at a large scale over twenty years ago, which prompted me to do the work I do.

For example, co-founder disputes are the No. 1 early startup killer.

But you can also see conflicts as opportunities to test your narrative and reinforce it.

In my personal experience, tensions between co-founders are part of the life of the company. Like in a marriage, conflicts occur and represent a chance to build healthy relationships if you can resolve them effectively. Conversely, avoiding conflict leads to disaster.

Use the strategic narrative canvas to resolve co-founders' conflict.

How could you use the four dimensions of the Strategic Narrative Canvas to help you resolve a conflict?

1 - Discussing the company's origin can help you re-visit together the foundational reasons why you started it in the first place. What were the key moments that led you to form the company? What motivated you then? What promises did you make? How do you align on these today?

2 - Then, reframing the opportunity will help you look further on the "horizon" for ways to align on future goals. How could the impact you have on your community motivate you to collaborate better? What would happen if you split? What would people miss if you stopped working together or your company disappeared?

3 - The overarching perspective of your company includes the values you committed to living. How do those values show up in your conflict? How could those same values help you make the right choices to get out of the struggle?

4 - The product dimension typically holds significant misalignment sources such as client relationships, sales, pricing, and product development priorities. What is causing stress? How clear are your roles in making sure the company delivers? Where are you not meeting expectations?

Use this framework to guide your conversations.

Go over those four sets of questions and use them to re-write your strategic narrative together as a couple re-engages with their vows.

Prevention is the best medicine.

Finally, don't wait for tensions to turn into conflicts.

Again, your company strategic narrative is your most precious asset, and it's your responsibility to maintain it.

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