The impact of storytelling on your change programme

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Storytelling is one internal communication trend that keeps on gathering pace.

Everyone likes a good story, and stories can be useful when explaining basic truths, whether it’s one of Aesop’s fables or as a tool to help support a change programme. This article looks at some examples.

Universal appeal.

Certain tales have an incredibly broad appeal and engage across different social groups and cultures and indeed continue to thrive across the ages. Take ‘The Tortoise and the Hare’ for instance – At its heart it is a moral tale and is still relevant today.

When communicating through storytelling, it pays to keep your story simple, moral and personal. In this way people will be engaged and not feel bombarded.

Story One: Where’s the jeopardy?

It’s not an adventure unless there is something to lose

To get a sense of jeopardy, it is important that Change Leaders expose potential weaknesses and fears – Even if convincing them to do so is challenging. Storytelling always contains negatives as well as positives.

In the past we have used first person stories to give personal accounts of the story behind the reason for change in an organisation. This has proved a good way to add credibility to a story, and it can be seen as a bold move which could win trust.

Story Two: Characters who speak for themselves.

When coordinating major change, it helps to develop characters that can help leaders to ‘show’ rather than ‘tell’ their employees what is going on.

When we worked with a major logistics company that was implementing a new way of working across its warehouses, we had to take into account the varied roles that would be affected by the change.

We developed five distinct visual characters to represent these roles, each with their own quirks. This really helped to highlight the different challenges each role would need to overcome, as well as help foster a fresh understanding of how each role would collaborate with one another.
These measures helped Change Leaders to draw people into the story of change at the warehouse, with all its entailing risks and rewards.

Story Three: A sense of purpose

Nobody likes being dictated to, so it’s important that workers feel involved. The best change programmes have a clear identity and a rallying cry – “Be a part of this adventure.”

There’s no denying that large change programmes are challenging to negotiate, as many are diverse and can be spread over years. In complex cases such as these, having a strong story becomes even more vital.

Recently, an infrastructure organisation launched a 15 year programme of change. The aims of the change were clear, but due to the sheer scope many details were and remain unknown.
What story could stay relevant over such an extended time period? In this case the company went for a tale of evolution: Its people had been handling change for 150 years. This helped its employees to feel part of something much greater – part of the adventure.

Change will always be challenging, but having a strong sense of purpose makes the journey easier. By talking about the ups and downs, challenges and successes as part of an overall story, it’s easier to connect workers with what is going on.

To be fair, storytelling has always been a part of change management. Does being bold and telling the truth lead to more successful change? It’d be great to hear your thoughts on the matter.

To read about how Afiniti can help your business with engagement and communications during change, please click here.