Change is an essential dynamic in the growth process of healthy organisations. Without necessary change, companies would get out of touch and stagnate, their client base could dwindle and worse, they might become irrelevant within the market. Sam Keen and Ann Valley Fox in “Your Mythic Journey: Finding Meaning in your Life through Writing and Storytelling” (1989) note for individuals: “To remain vibrant … we must always be inventing ourselves, weaving new themes into our life narratives, remembering our past, re-visioning our future”. I suggest the same is true for organisations.
Changing as an organisation is not easy, however, as comfort zones and default processes usually control the typical behaviour of authority structures, protocol in relationships and client interaction. A new mind-set needs to be developed about the change process so that existing structures can be re-examined and progress can be made. This new mind-set should be developed before change actually takes place – bringing people on board so that everyone is involved in driving the change from the beginning. A possible solution for a successful change introduction could be the task of “solving” an incomplete story – every team in the organisation is tasked with finding/writing the most appropriate conclusion to an unfinished drama or mystery, the story created by the executive leadership to relate as closely as possible to the current challenges faced by the company. The quest to create the best ending not only gets everyone involved with the change, but also fuels creative juices amongst the employees and solicits ideas for improvement and new ways to engage with clients.
The following benefits can be derived from the process outlined above:
- Inclusion in the formulation of direction – no “rule book” has ever suggested that it is only the leadership team that has responsibility to formulate strategy. In fact, including employees in the initial phases of strategy formulation will enhance ownership of the completed strategy later.
- Provision of a context for the intended change – as employees work with all the facets of the story, their own context (and the company’s context) becomes more apparent to them – in this way, a desire to change is created.
- Increased engagement overall – as teams and employers start relating to find solutions for the story’s ending, engagement levels rise, subsequent interaction is accelerated and relationships are grown.
- Awareness is enhanced – other relevant issues, of which many employees previously were unaware, are now highlighted and a deeper level of understanding resides within the organisation.
- Lateral thought processes and innovation are encouraged – because the story is “mythical”, there are no right or wrong answers. Imaginations can freely engage and new and inventive possibilities are forthcoming.
- Personal identification with the story’s characters enhances employees taking responsibility – suddenly, an employee wants to become the hero or heroine and be a solution-finder.
- Innovative use of resources is now encouraged – all available resources are seen in a different light. Appropriate use of the resources at one’s disposal becomes essential.
- Communication around the central theme is urged – the whole organisation starts speaking about a solution to the unfinished story. It is uppermost in everyone’s mind. Ideas, silly and clever, get thrown around and banter starts to develop.
- Leadership is encouraged from all corners of the organisation – in the creation of a meaningful and satisfactory ending, leaders will pop up everywhere. Employees will want to be part of the action and will influence others to join them in the quest.
Healthy organisations recognise the dangers associated with comfort zones, unchallenged and sometimes archaic systems and inappropriate authority/leadership structures. Change, for them, is a calculated response to the dynamics of ever-changing client needs, fierce competition and a desire for excellence. Stagnation is not an option in their relentless desire to be a forerunner. Facilitating change-readiness through story completion could be one possible mechanism to encourage wholesale change in line with strategy and market tactics. Bringing all staff on board in this process is essential for alignment, organisational well-being and sustainability.