Culture is all about the story you tell
Organisations used to manage change through change programmes that adhered to set methodologies. Managing change had a rhythm – a step by step process underpinned by a change plan.
When new management thinking emerged, another change programme would pop-up. Using pre-determined change methodologies change was done using colour-by-number techniques. Employees got to recognise the change cycles, knowing that many would go nowhere. Change projects suffered a 70% fail rate – see this great McKinsey article for more on that.
Organisations need to be creative and innovative. They must empower employees so they can deliver change in creative ways. To encourage new behaviours, organisations need to be applauding creativity and speed.
Each organisation has its stories, providing a collective handbook on how to behave. The things employees whisper and the things they openly applaud. Which corresponds to which behaviour will be celebrated and which won’t. A valuable piece of data for culture change.
Many corporate cultures were set in the colour-by-numbers era. In a time of five-year strategies, leadership from above and annual performance- appraisals. Which become recorded in the employee stories about ‘the way we do things around here’. But now those stories need to change as organisations need new stories. Look at this one example of how IDEO co-created its values.
Legacy organisations need to give permission to digital behaviours. They need to be telling stories that elicit new behaviours and create new social norms. So how to do this?
Telling your story
- Know what you stand for
Stories have missions, characters and an enemy (which btw can be the behaviours you don’t want). The cultural markers you use to convey these shouldn’t change – btw agile and it’s fluidity happens at the next level down. This level of storytelling is strategic. Conveying your reason for being and the values and behaviours that will get you there in a very human way that builds trust.
- Understand the scale of the change
Find out about the current values and behaviours your employees have. Then see how different they are from your target behaviours. This gives you a heat map of the organisation so that you can target effort. What used to be your ‘As-is analysis’, ‘Gap Analysis’ and ‘Change Readiness Assessment’.
- Create a new story
Work out a new story that communicates, in a human form, your business strategy and target culture. Stories make their way into long-term memory, in a way that annual reports and mission statements can’t. Take time to work out what behaviours you support. See my video story for an example how this can work. Oh, and stories will be richer if they are co-created with employees. You need to find out what story everyone can buy in to.
- Think of communications as a marketing campaign
Have a comms grid and plan the sub-stories for each employee group. Your kit bag to connect is bigger now with video, social media, and many more new channels. Not least of which is your internal influencer or super-connectors network. The people who have the likeability factor to bring people together. Work out an engagement plan to create two-way conversations. The more employees input to the conversation the more bought in they will be. Foster communities and networks to encourage the behaviours you want.
Sandie Bakowski helps organisations do change in ways that suit a digital age. She translates dry business strategies into approaches that engage employees. Join her mailing list for more articles on Making Change Happen in a digital age.
Other blog posts by Sandie you may be interested in:
- The hardest part of digital transformation is the people change
- Creating perfect communications for today’s corporate world
- Unlocking the power of visual storytelling
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How to Write a Change Narrative That Works
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