Set your counter-productive strategies out to sea with story

MB900432792My husband recently recounted an organizational change process that he had observed at a European client. Interestingly, it was based upon the story of the ancient ritual of a Viking funeral. In the process, the group symbolically “sent” their old strategies (hopefully along with the accompanying mindset) “out to sea”. They marked the occasion of this change with a considerable amount of respect – reflecting on what had passed – and anticipating what lay ahead.  An honorable “end” so to speak, of the outdated but once useful philosophy, that would help usher in a whole new way of doing business.

In fact, they were utilizing storytelling to spark a change. As we all have experienced, change within an organization can be a difficult process  – it is often wrought with fear and uncertainty. Weaving stories about the future during a change effort – can create a mental path for your employees to tread on that journey. In most cases, organizations  do not have the luxury of waiting for a change to “ignite” on its own. Storytelling can help start the process.

In many cases we acknowledge that things need to improve – and processes need to flex – but it’s often difficult to rally around that cause. Something is needed to get the process going.  Something simple – yet symbolic – that signifies the end of the old and the start of something new.

Some ideas to incorporate storytelling into your change effort:

  • Tell the story of “why”. Gather your team and discuss why you have reached the impasse. Have team members tell of of their experiences – and offer everyone an opportunity to voice their feelings about why the change needs to occur.
  • Talk of the future. Look forward and tell the story of how actions can translate into success. Utilize a “Springboard Story” which describes how your organization will function more effectively because of the change.
  • Give change the deference it deserves. Acknowledge that change is difficult. Be clear that the effort to come, deserves respect.
  • Add pompJust as a product launch can motivate a  group – a little ceremony can give a change effort momentum. Be sure to mark the beginning of the journey somehow.
  • Recognize behavioral change. As time goes on, be sure to offer encouragement and reward positive change. Always remember – unlearning old ways can be an arduous task.

How do you embark on the journey of change within your organization? Tell us your story.

Read more about this topic here: The Four Stories You Need to Lead Deep Organizational Change,  Steve Denning, Forbes.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is a Workplace Psychologist. You can also find her on Twitter and Linkedin.

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