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The importance of storytelling for business change

With continual change becoming the new norm for modern business, the chances are, no matter what industry or sector you work in, that you’ve experienced work-based change first-hand at least once during your career.

Most of us are able to recount our experiences of being involved in change to varying degrees, and we most certainly have our opinions on whether we feel we really understood the ‘what’, ‘why’ and ‘how’.
Let’s be honest, business case language can be fairly dry and statistics can be pretty dull on their own – they aren’t compelling to the majority of the workforce and certainly don’t convey a meaningful story. But, all too often, we hear of organisations who haven’t adequately considered their change story, what it means to the organisation outside of the boardroom, and how they are going to ensure that all areas of their workforce really understand it and get behind it. I’m sure that most of you reading this have experienced business change where you were left thinking ‘why are we doing this, and what does this mean for me?’

So what’s the importance of the change story?

We know that people are much more likely to get on-board with organisational change if they feel they understand the ‘why?’ This includes the reason for change, and for changing right now, what the change looks like, and most importantly – what it means for them.
This means taking the business case as a starting point and turning it into a meaningful, honest narrative which speaks to everyone.

As change and communication experts, we know that you won’t find the whole story in the boardroom. You need to build up a rounded picture, and this could involve desk research (engagement surveys, for example), benchmarking surveys, focus groups and one-to-one interviews with people from the affected teams.

There are a number of ways to extract the narrative and co-create the story with people, building on the business case

  • Find out how things work at the moment – how does ‘stuff’ get done and do people think it generally works well? If there’s a consensus that it doesn’t– why is that?
  • Explain why things are changing and ask how and why the old ways of working can be improved.
  • Explain what will happen if the business doesn’t change.
  • Ask how people think they can go about changing – what do they need to commit to, where will they need support and are there any ‘quick wins’ which can help to get things moving forward.

Read our blog post on Storytelling techniques

Weaving the story into communications and engagement

After the story is uncovered there are a range of options to bring information, like statistics, the business case and details of technology-change to life.

The one-pager

The communications framework is your one-page summary of the story. It will contain facts but also the key messages, the language, and learnings from the engagement and discovery work. Once you have this narrative recorded, your subsequent communications can carry the story and bring it to life.

Smart visual identity

a key part of telling the story is how it looks. A consistent visual identity will complement your core messaging and bring the story to life. This is your opportunity to create something visually compelling which provokes interest and curiosity and helps to bind your communications.

Characters

These give depth to a story and if you use names, department and showcase actual roles, people identify with them and trust the story more.

Using visuals

Infographics are helpful in visually showing statistics in a way that tell a story which involves data, in clear, simple terms.

Build the story as you go along

Building upon the story throughout the change ensures that it stays relevant and helps to keep people connected to it. A great example of this is helping people to create videos of their experiences – it means they get involved in telling the story and owning it. We’ve seen some great outputs from people working on the front line whether on rigs, on the rail or at local offices, and the result works well to unite people working in different places with similar experiences.

 

I Hope you found this useful.  Please get in touch if you’d like to discuss any of the tactics listed here, or share your ideas.

 

We frequently post our thoughts, ideas and tips on: change management, learning and communications, PPM, employee engagement and culture.

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If you’re thinking about cyber security, you should also think about behaviour change

It’s no longer an option to view cyber attacks as something that happens to someone else, some other organisation, or just a technical issue.  It’s now standard practice for all large organisations to have measures in place to protect themselves and their assets, and these measures often include an element of culture and behaviour change .

I’ve recently been involved in a project where I helped a client change the way their workforce viewed cyber security and embed a set of new highly-secure behaviours.

The project has been very successful and I’ve even found my own behaviour changing as a result – I’ve signed up for a password manager and my laptop is now a veritable fort knox!

So what do we mean by cyber security?

In its simplest terms, cyber security is the protection of an individual’s or organisation’s cyber assets.

To protect cyber assets you need to worry about physical security as well as cyber security.  This is where you need to think about the culture and behaviours of the organisation – there’s no point having great firewalls in place, if you leave the door to your server room open!

What is a cyber threat?

There are a number of different types of cyber threat, including state-sponsored attacks, insider threats, cybercrime, cyberterrorism, physical threats (staff members leaving doors or computers unlocked) and ‘hacktivism’ (hacking a system for social or political gain). Each company will have a different profile in terms of which of these threats are the most probable and how serious the consequences of a breach could be.

How does an organisation protect itself against cyber attack?

If people don’t understand, endorse and actively support cyber security consistently throughout an organisation, it’s just a matter of time before the best of systems will be compromised.

As change professionals, the area we add value is in helping our clients identify and embed the behaviours that will support the other measures (such as technological protection) they have in place. This isn’t just a ‘nice to have’ – if people don’t understand, endorse and actively support cyber security consistently throughout an organisation, it’s just a matter of time before the best of systems will be compromised.

Affecting large-scale behavioural change

Let’s be clear about one thing: change is hard! I get uncomfortable changing my brand of toothpaste. So effecting meaningful, lasting change can’t just be a top-down approach.  For behaviours to adapt, and for change to be truly adopted, all affected staff need to take ownership and understand the importance of the change.

Here are some key methods and approaches we use at Afiniti to help our clients ensure long-term and sustainable behavioural change is achieved across the whole organisation.

1.       Build sustainable toolkits and communications

This can’t be a one-off short-burst campaign, it needs to be rolled out over a period of time for the desired behaviours to become embedded as second nature.

To help maintain a high level of interest throughout the project, try a mix of communication styles from hard-hitting and informative to softer, more subliminal messaging.

And lastly, by using a blend of channels and methods, plus appropriate language and tone, you can ensure your key messages reach all intended audience groups.

2.       Co-create and utilise real people to generate awareness and validate the programme

Take the time to understand people’s opinions and insights into their areas of work, and then involve them in the project planning and execution. This way you’ll not only gain a more rounded understanding of the business needs, but people will feel invested in the project from the beginning.

Once people feel on board and understand the importance of the changes, work with them to create content such as short videos and workshops.  This type of user-generated content can really help with marketing to external audience groups, so why not reap the benefit for your internal communications efforts too?  It’s often cheaper, more authentic and more trusted by internal audiences.

Check out our vBlog of top tips for creating user-generated content

3.       Use creative and eye-catching visual assets

As they say ‘an image can convey a thousand words’ and this is certainly true when you’re trying to present a set of important key messages. Trying to condense a long white paper into a punchy animation or presentation can be a difficult thing to do, but it also forces you to concentrate on the things that really matter and helps to bring ideas and concepts to life.

4.       Create a security champions network

By giving tools and training to a group of security champions, you can create a community which supports the wider workforce on a day-to-day basis.  The champions can share experiences, best practice and be a point of call for questions, ideas and concerns. It also really helps to see respected colleagues modelling the desired behaviours.

Read our article on Making change stick by getting the whole team on board

It’s important to bear in mind that changing behaviours and mindsets doesn’t happen overnight, these things take time to embed. The tools and approaches above will help you maintain momentum and create the emotional engagement you need to embed the desired ways-of-working on a permanent basis.

If you have any interesting insights, or experiences of behaviour change related to cyber security, we’d be interested in hearing from you, so leave us a comment.

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