Heroes and happy endings: the story of organisational change
We all love stories. They can touch us, make us laugh, or make us cry. The classic stories we were told as children still resonate with us today, and those stories have their own histories of being passed from generation to generation through the ages.
Stories provide us with a window through which to articulate our own desires, fears, and dreams. They’re typically based around heroic protagonists on quests to defeat villainous antagonists. They begin in a state of equilibrium, experience a disruption which catapults the hero on their journey, and, upon the defeat of the villain, return to a state of new equilibrium. They document the triumph of good over evil. And at their most basic, they have a beginning, a middle, and an end.
This rigid structure is what gives classic tales their resounding appeal. We know what they’re going to deliver; we know that good will always win; and we know that any problems the protagonists encounter will always be resolved. It implies unity and order. But we also subconsciously see our own dreams and desires reflected in our heroes’ journeys. We all aspire to be successful; and the tale of good thwarting evil mirrors this perfectly.
But how does this narrative theory connect with organisational change?
Organisational change is itself a story. It has a beginning (the organisation’s state of existence before the change) a middle (the change process itself) and an end (the organisation’s state of existence after the change). The change itself is the disruption to equilibrium, and the ‘antagonist’ could be our potential aversion to change, which can lead to scepticism, fear, and even downright resistance to transformation. If an organisational change is to be successful, these feelings need to quashed – just as good traditionally quashes evil.
Cementing the story together is the narrative concept of the ‘Hero’s Journey’, mapped out by Mythologist Joseph Campbell in his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Campbell breaks down the protagonist’s journey of overcoming evil into 12 stages; there are 6 which particularly resonate with organisational change:
- The ordinary world
- Call to adventure
- Refusal to the call
- Crossing the threshold
- Tests, allies and enemies
- The reward
The ‘ordinary world’ is the organisation’s state of being before the change; the ‘call to adventure’ is the recognition of the need for change; the ‘refusal to the call’ is potential initial resistance to the change; ‘crossing the threshold’ is the initial implementation of the change process; ‘tests, allies and enemies’ are the potential problems and pitfalls experienced during the change process; and ‘the reward’ is the (positive) outcome of the process – a new state of being for the organisation.
By applying this narrative structure to organisation change, you can theoretically predict how the process will progress and plan ahead for any issues you might come across. Our employees are our heroes, and by communicating this structure to them we can inspire unity and order – a change structured for success as opposed to panning out unplanned – and stimulate successful transformation.
PRINT® can aid this process by giving detailed insights into how people may respond to change, allowing you to take action to stimulate positivity and minimalize resistance. By understanding your employees’ Unconscious Motivators® and Triggers, you can work with them to foster increased acceptance of change and ensure positive communication, building a transformation which works for everyone.
And in doing so, you can make your organisational change a story with a happy ending.
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