Change is a difficult thing, resisted by both systems and people. We crave stability, the status quo. Within our everyday lives, meaning is created in the moment: founded on knowledge and experience. It’s forged within communities and evidenced through action. In the Social Age, where organisations are in a state of constant change, it can become harder to create that meaning: when boundaries shift, it’s easy to lose our place. To enact effective change, it needs to be co-owned by the community, not just rained down from on high.
Organisational change is a difficult thing to achieve, but to do it successfully, we have to understand how culture is formed and how it responds to change: once we understand this, we can influence it and craft magnetic messages. We have to find ways to listen to messages going up the chain, not just try to push messages down.
You see, change does not come down from on high (although the strategic imperative for change may do). You cannot effect change simply by lining up ‘leaders‘ and telling them to make it happen: you cannot do it with any number of corporate videos and engagement projects if you don’t listen at the same time. if you want to change the system, you have to engage it at every level. A grass roots approach.
View it as storytelling: change is not one story that you write that gets cascaded down through the structure. Rather, the story is co-created at each level throughout the organisation, made relevant to each group in each retelling. Or at least it is if you want it to stick. This does, of course, mean that your story can evolve, but that’s really the whole point of it: it will evolve to be more relevant to each group that hears it. Good change projects engage people at every level, supporting them in creating a new meaning in the moment and sharing that through narratives.
I’ve written before about narrative, but you can view it in three levels: individual, co-created within a group and organisational. You need all three for successful change. Individuals gain understanding and co-create meaning within communities. The organisational narrative rides above this, charting and documenting the change: part of the conversation, but not owning it.