Using Stories as a Change Management Tool

Gabrielle Dolan of One Thousand and One, an Australian consultancy specialising in storytelling as a tool for organisational development, recently published an article in The Age newspaper on applying storytelling as a tool for managing change.

The article was read and blogged on by Dave Snowden of Cognitive Edge, and discussion ensued on Dave’s weblog. Gabrielle’s central point is that:

What we believe is that when organisations attempt to introduce change there are already existing stories. Stories around ‘we tried that before and it didn’t work’ or ‘last time they did this my best friend was retrenched’.

When we work with our clients we help them understand that those stories already exist and are powerful blockages to change. We encourage them when communicating the key messages of the change they use story to help their employees understand the possibilities and hopefully engage in the new direction, making organisational change perhaps easier for everyone concerned.

This is a powerful observation about the role of mindset in managing change and a tool to help shift the mindset.

Also worth highlighting is that executives and leaders also have their own stories and beliefs about how things work and what is possible, a point elaborated on at length in the book Beyond Change Management: Advanced Strategies for Today’s Transformational Leaders by Dean Anderson and Linda Ackerman Anderson. Anderson and Anderson argue that changing both leader and employee mindset is the pivotal fulcrum of change.

In Anderson and Anderson’s framework:

  • Changing Leader and Employee Mindset facilitates changing
  • Leader and Employee Behaviour which facilitates change in
  • Organisational Culture which facilitates
  • Pursuit and Achievement of Business Objectives which facilitates
  • Market Success in Market Environment

Hence, the critical point in change is a “breakthrough” or shift in leader and employee mindset. And stories can be a useful tool to achieve that shift, for both employees and for consultants or authors trying to reach leaders with a message. I tend to agree with Anderson and Anderson that the pivotal point for change is mindset, and embedding that changed mindset into behaviours, processes, interactions and culture – into individual and organisational ways of doing things.

3 Responses to Using Stories as a Change Management Tool
  1. Gabrielle Dolan
    June 14, 2007 | 12:05 AM

    Hi Lauchlan,

    Thanks for your favourable comments on my article I wrote. Over my years working in the corporate world I have experienced the frustration of change from both sides of the fence. As an employee at the coal face and as a change manager and senior leader attempting to implement change.

    What I have found with story, is that it actually makes it easier for everyone involved.

    And as you said the pivotal point for change is mindset. Leaders, not knowing any other way try and do that through data, data and a bit more data. This results in frustration for the leaders and employees.

    We have recently been reading a book from Dan and Chip Heath called Made to Stick and that talks about why some ideas and changes get traction and others don't…..and the role story plays in that. You may find it an interesting read.

    I think Dave was trying to say that story used in a manipulative way is dangerous, which I agree with but used in a genuine and authentic manner is engaging and effective.

    Gabrielle Dolan
    Director
    One Thousand & One

  2. Dr. Lauchlan A. K. Mackinnon
    June 14, 2007 | 1:16 AM

    Hi Gabrielle,

    Thank you for your comment.

    I have a brief review of 'made to stick' on this blog if you are interested. I liked the Jared (subway)story in the story chapter.

    I've been meaning to get in touch with you to find out more about what you do in Melbourne (I'm here too) – I'll send you an email to the address on your website shortly.

    Kind regards

    Lauchlan Mackinnon

  3. Gabrielle Dolan
    June 25, 2007 | 4:25 AM

    Hi Lachlan,

    We are in the process of updating our website. Just send me an email at my address which is gabrielle at onethousandandone.com.au

    Gabrielle

Using Stories as a Change Management Tool

Gabrielle Dolan of One Thousand and One, an Australian consultancy specialising in storytelling as a tool for organisational development, recently published an article in The Age newspaper on applying storytelling as a tool for managing change.

The article was read and blogged on by Dave Snowden of Cognitive Edge, and discussion ensued on Dave’s weblog. Gabrielle’s central point is that:

What we believe is that when organisations attempt to introduce change there are already existing stories. Stories around ‘we tried that before and it didn’t work’ or ‘last time they did this my best friend was retrenched’.

When we work with our clients we help them understand that those stories already exist and are powerful blockages to change. We encourage them when communicating the key messages of the change they use story to help their employees understand the possibilities and hopefully engage in the new direction, making organisational change perhaps easier for everyone concerned.

This is a powerful observation about the role of mindset in managing change and a tool to help shift the mindset.

Also worth highlighting is that executives and leaders also have their own stories and beliefs about how things work and what is possible, a point elaborated on at length in the book Beyond Change Management: Advanced Strategies for Today’s Transformational Leaders by Dean Anderson and Linda Ackerman Anderson. Anderson and Anderson argue that changing both leader and employee mindset is the pivotal fulcrum of change.

In Anderson and Anderson’s framework:

  • Changing Leader and Employee Mindset facilitates changing
  • Leader and Employee Behaviour which facilitates change in
  • Organisational Culture which facilitates
  • Pursuit and Achievement of Business Objectives which facilitates
  • Market Success in Market Environment

Hence, the critical point in change is a “breakthrough” or shift in leader and employee mindset. And stories can be a useful tool to achieve that shift, for both employees and for consultants or authors trying to reach leaders with a message. I tend to agree with Anderson and Anderson that the pivotal point for change is mindset, and embedding that changed mindset into behaviours, processes, interactions and culture – into individual and organisational ways of doing things.

3 Responses to Using Stories as a Change Management Tool
  1. Gabrielle Dolan
    June 14, 2007 | 12:05 AM

    Hi Lauchlan,

    Thanks for your favourable comments on my article I wrote. Over my years working in the corporate world I have experienced the frustration of change from both sides of the fence. As an employee at the coal face and as a change manager and senior leader attempting to implement change.

    What I have found with story, is that it actually makes it easier for everyone involved.

    And as you said the pivotal point for change is mindset. Leaders, not knowing any other way try and do that through data, data and a bit more data. This results in frustration for the leaders and employees.

    We have recently been reading a book from Dan and Chip Heath called Made to Stick and that talks about why some ideas and changes get traction and others don't…..and the role story plays in that. You may find it an interesting read.

    I think Dave was trying to say that story used in a manipulative way is dangerous, which I agree with but used in a genuine and authentic manner is engaging and effective.

    Gabrielle Dolan
    Director
    One Thousand & One

  2. Dr. Lauchlan A. K. Mackinnon
    June 14, 2007 | 1:16 AM

    Hi Gabrielle,

    Thank you for your comment.

    I have a brief review of 'made to stick' on this blog if you are interested. I liked the Jared (subway)story in the story chapter.

    I've been meaning to get in touch with you to find out more about what you do in Melbourne (I'm here too) – I'll send you an email to the address on your website shortly.

    Kind regards

    Lauchlan Mackinnon

  3. Gabrielle Dolan
    June 25, 2007 | 4:25 AM

    Hi Lachlan,

    We are in the process of updating our website. Just send me an email at my address which is gabrielle at onethousandandone.com.au

    Gabrielle