Change culture by changing behavior – part 3: Story telling

Change is a process. Change is a journey. Change is exploration, thinking, mistaking, learning, testing, accepting, supporting and struggling. Change is emotion having an argument with reason. You cannot change culture if you want your employees to change their behavior. It’s the other way around: you need to change behavior to change the culture of your organization.

Big change projects have the tendency to change processes, organization, structures and training to change culture. But that’s only an illusion. New studies, like “Accelerate” by John Kotter and “Viral Change” by The Chalfont Project have arguments against this tendency which are very compelling and make sense.

There are several ways to change behavior, but I would like to discuss three topics with you in separate short blog entries: role modelling, distributed networks and story telling.

Part 3 – Story telling

Story telling has been there for ages

Story telling has been there for ages

Story telling is not new to us. For thousands of years story telling was the one way experiences and lessons learned were spread. This because the majority of human population was illiterate until the last two to three hundred years, Our brains seem to learn and remember better when the information is processed in the form of stories. Many management guru’s have rediscovered this and used it to write fictional stories like “Who moved my cheese“, “Our iceberg is melting“, the Patrick Lencioni series and real life experiences like “Leading from the edge – Leadership Lessons from the Extraordinary Saga of Shackleton’s Antarctic Expedition“.

But story telling goes beyond writing and distributing books (I read of a case where the “Who Moved my cheese” book was spread to an entire organization to support the change effort). Story telling is about sharing experiences, both positive and negative experiences.

The theory of appreciative inquiry teaches us that by focusing on positive points and experiences, you can achieve better results, then when focusing on what’s going wrong. The case of OSHA mill proved a decrease in work related accidents when the power of positive story telling was unleashed. (A decrease is good situation when you’re talking about the number of accidents, of course.)

A distributed community sharing stories about positive experiences with their change efforts will have an exhilarating effect on the organization. Remember: if your need to set the organization on fire, communities are your oxygen.

But don’t write of sharing negative experiences completely. Sharing negative experiences… can be positive too. As you show you’re not invulnerable, but also human, and that you learned something from the experience.

Sharing both types of stories are signs of a mature community growing in your organization.

Additional reading

Changing the way we think about change by Leandro Herrero

Accelerate by John Kotter

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One thought on “Change culture by changing behavior – part 3: Story telling

  1. […] bedrijven en geeft vele voorbeelden van hoe het wel/niet moet. Als je goede voorbeelden zoek van story telling, dan ik kan je dit boek […]

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