Change Curve: The Dynamic Change Process [Part 5] – Narrative

I’m entering into the final part of the Dynamic Change model, which forms part of the overall Change Curve framework. The Change Curve framework identifies three manifestations of organisational change: ‘Resistant‘, where the organisation kills change conversations, ‘Constrained‘, where it tries to change but is constrained internally, and ‘Dynamic‘, where the organisation achieves agility. The Dynamic Change model shows how to develop that agility, running through ‘framing‘ the change, ‘co-creating‘ the future state, ‘adapting‘ as you go and finally, today, we explore ‘narrative‘.

Change Curve - Dynamic Change - Narrative

When considering Narrative, we have to listen to the story, then consider three subsequent distinct processes: firstly, how we shape the story of what has been done, secondly, how we share it wisely, and finally, how we consciously loop this story back into the tacit, tribal knowledge of the organisation, grounding it into the collective experience.

Change Curve - Dynamic Change - Narrative and Stories

The first three stages of the Dynamic Change model have been about action: ‘framing change‘, ‘co-creating‘ future state and ‘adapting‘ as the actions take place. The fourth part, shaping our story, is more of a journalistic stance: looking back over what we have done (from the initial intent, through the approach to co-creation and the data points gathered that shaped adaptation) and crafting a story about it. As is typical with stories, we need to consider key elements such as the location of the story, the stance we take, the tone of voice we use and the coherence of the underlying narrative.

Change Curve - Dynamic Change - Narrative and Stories

We start by hearing the many voices that make up the story, within our shared spaces. By listening to these individual stories, we form the co-created narrative: the story woven out of the crowd. To achieve dynamic change, we take that story and craft our narrative, based upon it. We consider whether this story is an internal one, for our team, or external, to the world. Knowing who it’s intended for shapes how we craft it. Internal stories tend to be of interest to us, but of little relevance to those outside, outward facing stories are likely to be both timely and relevant to the wider world. Sharing inward facing stories outwardly is often a mistake, for example, sharing details of ‘why we are changing‘. Relevant to us, but to others, it’s just the new reality that counts.

Tone of voice is about our mode of engagement: is it a didactic story, told from a location of power, or a story of curiosity, still being written? Is it a reflective story, trying to make sense of things, or a formal story, once we have a strong view? Does the story act expectantly, using a tone of voice demanding action? Is it written with an expert tone of voice?

Storytelling styles

There are many styles of storytelling, any of which we can consciously choose

The stance may be to challenge, or to support. It may be presented as complete, or in a process of iteration. We may use a tone of voice that sits alongside the reader, or one that is above, below or alien to them, depending on the effect we are striving for. It may not be easy to choose correctly, but it’s vital to recognise that it is a conscious choice that we can take. If we don’t consciously choose, we will end up with a style, tone of voice and stance that happens by accident, not by design.

A well crafted story is not a thing carved in stone: we may tell the same story in many different ways, using many different tones of voice. We may tell and retell it, founded upon the same core narrative, but reframed and rephrased to be contextualised for many different audiences. Not one story for all, but one narrative, out of which are born many stories for all. United by the coherence of the narrative, but contextualised for each reader.

Change Curve - shared stories for change

So in an organisation that takes a Dynamic approach to change, great care is taken to hear the stories from within and to shape them to send out.

Which brings us to sharing: how we share widely, but wisely. How do we use our stories to effect change, to build and strengthen change communities, to amplify core messages, not simply to add to the noise within the system. Story, not static.

The Change Curve: Generating Momentum in Change

The things to consider here are both ‘relevance‘ and ‘timeliness‘. Something can easily be relevant, but not timely, and therefore poorly shared. To ensure relevance requires interpretation: taking the narrative and contextualising it to the audience, so relevance is something we can influence: ‘this may be of interest to you because…‘. The better we know and segment the audiences, the more impactful the story can be (again, countering the notion of the ‘push‘ effect of large organisational stories: instead, we are looking at an engaged ‘pull‘ from many highly contextualised small ones).

Interpretation‘ takes the concept of ‘narrative‘ and ‘story‘ being differentiated and exploits it: the narrative is the underlying information architecture, the facts if you like, and the story is the dressing around that. One narrative can be told through many different stories (you can read the Iron Man story in a comic book or film, the same narrative, but different story forms). Note to purists: there are many interpretations of the difference between ‘narrative‘ and ‘story‘, but i’m using a simple one here. The terms are less important than the concept: take organisational narratives and craft tailored stories that are told and retold throughout the organisation. Getting this right helps us avoid making noise (by interpreting it to be relevant), and by working out for which sub sets of the whole population it’s timely.

Strong stories do not spread through the organisation extant: they are reshaped and re-contextualised at each step.

Finally, having done our learning and shared the stories, we need to actively loop the story back into the tacit, tribal knowledge of the organisation. I covered this whilst #WorkingOutLoud a few days ago here.

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About julianstodd

A learning and development professional specialising in e-learning and learning technology.
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