The power of storytelling through organisational change

“People don’t make decisions based on rational analysis of data…
When under stress, rational argument, instructions and value are not effective…
It is stories which will engage them.”

Photo by: Andrew Mason

Photo by: Andrew Mason

Tony Quinlan, Principal Consultant and Chief Storyteller at Narrate consultancy says that people get to grip with organisational change much easier if that change is told with a story. This is because we are more skeptical of change when it is presented as a straight line – because people’s experience of change is not linear.

Instead, Quinlan highlights the significance of taking those involved on a journey, before reaching the ideal destination, using stories as an effective tool to do so.

Quinlan demonstrates this point using a model he calls the ‘vision arc’. (For me, this fits nicely with ‘Theory U’ – ie. the need to take serveral steps before achieving the end goal.)

Using one of our clients, who are a big publishing company, as an example really brings this concept to life.

People within this organisation know that change is necessary because people simply aren’t reading books in the same way that they used to. In fact, they’re using completely new methods to access information which is changing the roles of all the people in between – from authors writing the books to the consumer, or reader.

Using Quinlan’s vision arc, we can see the steps which the organisation needs to go through, in order to fully get to grips with this change:

1. The need or opportunity then is to get to the point where the organisation has the ability to adapt to these new changes and become more relevant to their customers as a result.

2. To really understand the change they’re going through and how to deal with it, they need to collect stories from all the stakeholders involved.

3. The next step is to analyse the stories presented by each of these stakeholders…

4. to identify the points of disruption – in this case, the affect of the disruption of technology on each of these stakeholders.

5. It is only then that they can find ways to deal with these changes and they will be more brought in as a result.

For me, I can see the benefit of having the organisation go through this process several times before finding a solution – and of course, to be truly agile. Similarly, Quinlan highlights the need for testing and overcoming obstacles and says that making mistakes is all part of the process towards achieving the buy-in required from within the organisation.



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