During last few days I have been fortunate enough to participate in few meetings with our top management and these meetings have been a huge learning experiences for me. One such learning, was using storyline technique for writing effective presentation, email or blogging.

The technique is called The Minto Pyramid Principle, or the SCQA technique. The SCQA technique provides you with a flow, that you could use to write your storyline. It helps you write introductions that engages the audience attention before they are told the answers.

Ohh, by now you must be wondering what does SCQA mean? So before you get any impatient, let me describe them,

  • Situation – describe what is the current situation
  • Complexity – describe the tension / issue in the situation
  • Question – describe the question in response to the issue / tension
  • Answer – suggest answer to ease out or mitigate the issue / tension

Now lets take few minutes to describe what each of above point means.

Situation

As I mentioned earlier, the Situation describes what is the current situation with regards to the subject. This could be something that the audience may already know. This establishes the context of the discussion.

As soon as the audience might think I know this, what different are you telling me?  you know you have hooked them in the discussion and you may want to start telling them about the complexity.

Example

For last 6 months our availability has been very good and above the threshold.

 

Complexity

Ok, you set up the context and you have explained the situation. However, now is the time when you actually mention the actual problem or an issue that you want your audience to know.

The answer to the question What happens now that we understand the situation or  What happens next? might help you create a tension un the minds of audience with regards to the story you are telling. Also, once you trigger the tension or curiosity about the possible question, its time you tell the question.

Example

However, this month the situation has changed and we had an unwanted dip in the availability statistics.

 

Question

The question will arise logically after the context you have set and problem complexity you have mentioned in earlier two points. In most of the cases it might automatically come in the minds of the audience, but you may just want to logically put the question forward.

Example

So what do we need to do to recover from the availability loss and resolve the situation?

 

Answer

The answer to the question is the main substance of the whole story and you have to make your point emphatically here.  Try to summarise your answer first – completing your introduction to the answer and later break it down into details and write the main body of your presentations or story.

Example

We need to complete find the root cause of the problem. Ensure the problem is fixed and put a plan for prevention of reoccurrence.

 

I am convinced that using this technique for providing updates would be really effective in day to day work, however I am sure it would take a bit more time for me to actually understand practice the SCQA technique.

After all, this has been explained to us by our Vice president and he seems very convinced of the benefits of using this techniques 🙂

The method is explained in greater detail in Barbara Minto’s book "The Minto Pyramid Principle".

This was forwarded to me by one of my colleagues and I thought it was worth putting it on my blog. I do not know the original author of this post so can not divert the credits to him / her unfortunately.

Anyways, an interesting perspective and worth a read though.

Old Story (global Version):

The ant works hard in the withering heat all summer building its house and laying up supplies for the winter.

The grasshopper thinks the Ant is a fool and laughs, Come, winter, the Ant is warm and well fed. And the Grasshopper has no food or shelter so he dies out in the cold.

Indian Version:

The Ant works hard in the withering heat all summer building its house and laying up  supplies for winter.

The Grasshopper thinks the Ant’s a fool and laughs; dances: plays the summer away. Come winter, the shivering grasshopper calls  a press conference and demands to know why ant should be allowed to be warm and well fed while are cold and starving.

NDTV, BBC, CNN, show up to provide pictures of the shivering Grasshopper next to the video of  the Ant in his comfortable home with a table  filled with food.

The world is stunned by sharp contrast. How can this be that this poor grasshopper is allowed to suffer so?

Arundhati Roy stages a demonstration in front of  the Ant’s house.

Medha Patkar goes on a fast along with other Grasshoppers demanding that Grasshoppers be relocated to warmer climates during winter.

Mayawati states this as ‘injustice’ done on minorities.

Amnesty International and Ban ki Moon criticize the Indian government for not upholding the fundamental rights of the Grasshopper.

The internet is flooded with online petitions seeking support to the Grasshopper (many promising Heaven and Everlasting Peace of prompt support as against the wrath of God for non-compliance).

Opposition MPs stage a walkout. Left parties call for ‘Bengal Band’ in West Bengal and Kerala demanding a Judicial Enquiry.

CPM in Kerala immediately passes a law preventing Ants from working hard in the heat so as to bring about equality of poverty among Ants and Grasshoppers.

Lalu Prasad allocates one free coach to Grasshoppers on all Indian railway trains, Aptly name as the ‘Grasshopper Rath’.

Finally, the Judicial Committee  drafts the ‘Prevention of Terrorism  Against Grasshoppers Act [POTAGA], with effect from beginning of winter.

Arjun Singh makes ‘Special Reservation’ for Grasshoppers in the Educational Institutions and in Government Services.

The Ant is fined for failing to comply with POTAGA and having nothing left to pay his retroactive taxes, it’s home is confiscated by the government and handed over to the Grasshopper in a ceremony covered by NDTV.

Arundhati Roy calls it ‘A Triumph of Justice’

Lalu calls it ‘Socialistic Justice’.

CPM calls it the ‘Revolutionary Resurgence of the Downtrodden’.

Ban Ki Moon invites the Grasshopper to address the UN General Assembly.

Moral of the Story

Many years later …. ….

*The Ant has since migrated to the US and set up a multi-billion dollar company in Silicon Valley .

*100s of Grasshoppers  still die of starvation despite reservation somewhere in India

and …

As a result of loosing lots of hard working Ants and feeding the Grasshoppers, India still remains a developing country …!!!