I’m writing a series of #WorkingOutLoud articles as i piece together the Change Curve framework for Dynamic organisational change in the Social Age. It’s a model whereby we identify where an organisation sits on the change curve, we consider the Resisters and Amplifiers of change, then work to move the organisation from ‘Resistant‘, through ‘Constrained‘ and into ‘Dynamic‘. One mechanism we are using to overcome ‘constraint‘ is storytelling, creating spaces outside the formal structure to build shared narratives. Today, i’m expanding on that.
We introduced the idea of ‘Bridging Conversations‘, where we provide space for communities to build their story, then bridge them back into the organisation. To do this, we have two elements to consider: the overall narrative framework, and the mechanism by which we integrate individual stories into it.
The narrative framework is the organisational input into the change story: we are co-creating a story, so it’s fine for the organisation to have input into it. It just doesn’t fully write it or fully own it. The organisations willingness to relinquish control of the story is one of the markers of a Dynamic as opposed to Constrained organisation (if any aspect of co-creation is denied, then the organisation is stuck at the Resistant part of the Change Curve, where antibodies kill any effort to change).
The narrative framework is therefore the part of the story that the organisation owns: it may structure which topics are covered, and the importance that the organisation puts on it. But how do we incorporate the individual elements?
Broadly, there are two options: active storytelling, or active co-writing. When we take an active storytelling approach, we use a designated storyteller to help people write their personal story into the shared narrative, to facilitate them through technology and storytelling skills. With an active co-writing approach, we simply let the community write the stories and integrate them. This second approach is less involved, but relies more on individual engagement. The strongest results are likely to come with an active storytelling mechanism in place.
Let’s think of an example: organisations often tell stories about the future state with one particular stance. Maybe it’s about cost saving, about restructured teams, about being more fit for a new market. But individuals may want to tell different stories: they may have different opportunities and different priorities, and by understanding them, we are better able to understand how they can be invested in the future state.
Sure: there are always down sides, but our aim here is to engage in them with an honest and authentic dialogue, but to move beyond that to explore what happens next.
So change, to me personally, may present me with different challenges: maybe my team will be virtual, so my story (and co-creative conversation with others) may be about how i think i will adapt my working life to collaborate remotely. Is that a global story that solves the organisation’s desire to state where it will end up? No. Is it a personal conversation highly relevant to me, and possibly others within the organisation as we figure out what the future state looks like? Yes. And will sharing it help others adapt too, sharing their own knowledge, experience, thoughts and ideas on the future state? Yes.
Will the conversation make the change more likely to be successful, not just from a logistics point of view, but a productivity and engagement one? Yes.
So co-creating stories of change is not just something nice to do, it’s a vital way to ensure we leverage value from the great people we gave a job to in the first place. And it’s a great mechanism for allowing those people and teams to take ownership of, responsibility for and add value to the shape of the change itself.
Take another example: where do you find your pride? Organisations may take pride in one space, whilst as individuals we take pride in other areas. Perhaps the ways we deliver projects, nurture others or help our organisation engage in it’s local community. Better to allow people to integrate their stories of pride alongside our own organisational narrative, rather than to tuck it away as if it’s some second rate, microscopic part of the whole. Because the win, if we get our approach right, is a more highly engaged and reflective, invested team.