The impact of storytelling on your change programme

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.

How to inspire people with business change

We all know that a business’s long-term success often comes down to its people.

It’s the employee’s belief in a cause, their dedication and their passion to carry forward a vision, that takes a business into the future. How do you keep them excited? You inspire them.

This is easier said than done. Bound by business etiquette and corporate processes, it often seems difficult to inspire people on a personal level. Nevertheless, that was exactly our goal when we organised a recent conference in Denmark, where 100 of our client’s global stakeholders came together to collaborate and shape future business operations.


Empowering your workforce

The key goal of the conference was for people to learn something new, and to feel empowered enough to take away their new-found knowledge, integrate it into their everyday work, and truly make the business’s vision their own. As was the purpose of the conference, it was essential to turn momentary excitement into conviction – in turn creating true employee engagement and a sustainable campaign.


Learning and sharing knowledge

One of the key elements of our conference was giving people some food-for-thought in the shape of concrete business examples from their global peers. We highlighted different ways of working, ideas, processes and behaviours, which we saw as best-practice examples and which attendees could ‘take home’ with them and use in their own streams of work. It was important to us as well to show people that these things are possible; take away some of their fears and reservations, and empower them.


There’s always something for everyone

Something else we wanted to bring across to people was that there isn’t just one way to do things. The communications channels we used throughout the conference reflected exactly that. We made used of a diverse range of presentations, speakers and hosts, much video content, and of course engaging print materials. As different attendees tend to respond better to different communications channels, we wanted to make sure there was something there for everyone, and every participant had the chance to find inspiration in the content.


Creating a can-do attitude

Most importantly, we wanted to make sure attendees could create their own content, shape their own stories, right then and there. And so we involved everyone directly. We made use of collaborative work-shops and team-building exercises, and we used hand-held electronic voting devices, through which everyone could discuss and feed back thoughts and ideas immediately. Having worked closely with participants to create conference materials in the first place to give them involvement and ownership, we also featured people in pre-filmed video footage and published materials. This made for more personal discussions, but also created a ‘can-do attitude’ amongst people, showing them that whatever they want to accomplish, it is indeed possible.


I hope this gives you some ideas for your conferences and events. What have you tried that’s got good feedback from people?

The importance of managing resistance to change

The tube strikes held by Transport for London (TfL) workers in early 2014 posed serious inconvenience and disruption bringing the whole city to a halt.

Last minute talks between Boris and Bob orchestrated by the media just appeared too late in the day with the frustration of the Trade Union crying out “ resistance to change ”.

People don’t react well to change being imposed on them.  They need to understand the reasons for change and in the case of the unions, have the opportunity to help craft what the change will look like for the people most affected.

In our experience as a Business Change consultancy we often work with organisations facing similar challenges as TfL, implementing new working practices, new technologies, business acquisitions and efficiency improvement programmes, all affecting people.

We advise that before embarking on change you should identify and involve the right people in honest discussions, helping to create a sense of need and understanding for the change. How will this affect our people? What are the risks? What outcomes can we expect?

Consider the needs of the different stakeholders affected and involve them, what will the change look like for them?  Forming this unity will help to obtain buy-in and agreement which can then form part of the overall change strategy. For TfL the unions are key stakeholders in their change journey.

Once this element has been established look throughout the organisation to adopt change advocates, from managers through to the employees, representing all levels and areas of the organisation, positively and honestly cascading information, developing a two-way communication in preparation for change.

Giving people what they need to succeed

Create the story and vision, bringing the change to life, making it culturally relevant and executing through compelling communications.  It is important to set realistic expectations, delivering both positive and negative messages with clear direction of what this means for the individual, addressing concerns and anxieties.

Provide learning and support for new ways of working, recognising that people learn in different ways.  There are so many ways that learning can be delivered, face-to-face, experiential, elearning and social collaboration, consider the best methods, minimising disruption and maximising learning.

Guiding people through the change journey

Once the strategy has been implemented recognise barriers and take action quickly.  Use case studies and scenarios to demonstrate the change in practice and get people involved, talk to them, they need to know that they play a crucial part in the change journey.  It is important to take time to monitor and measure the effectiveness of the change, using your change advocate network and communications forums. It takes time to change attitudes and behaviours so remember to reinforce your messages and make the change part of their normal world.

The above is good practice and implemented well can break down change resistance but of course we recognise it is much harder in situations where people are threatened by job loss as in the TfL situation.

We recently worked with an organisation, also largely unionised, who were going through a large office relocation.  The move was an exciting opportunity for the company to bring their teams together, working collaboratively in one building with an obvious cost saving through efficiency, however, the location not suitable for everyone meant that a large number of employees were leaving the organisation.

We worked with them to create belonging and pride in their work and projects, for those staying and for the people leaving behind their legacy.  For those staying it was an opportunity to create a future vision, recognising and rewarding good practice and performance through employee roadshows, team videos, staff awards, case studies, featured team posters and articles.

For those leaving it was about capturing their knowledge and years of expertise.  A number of these individuals were videoed through knowledge share clips, giving them a real sense of pride in what they had achieved, discussing best practice, ways of working and crucial real-life information not captured in technical manuals that would have been lost forever.

Hopefully TfL will effectively include the unions in their change journey, involving the right people, making the change sustainable and getting the support and backing from the people most affected – the workers.  It’s still early days for them but dealing with change resistance is essential for every change.