Narratives of change, changing and of being changed

I was recently facilitating an exploratory workshop on the knowledge and learning aspects of a major change programme with 32 members of various project teams working in the programme. A recurring theme throughout the day was the power of stories as a means to build community identity, in making sense of the change process as well as to engage end-users in explaining and communicating what the programme is about and what it is doing.

Now this is a large programme and a dispersed team engaging a dispersed workforce and, perhaps, inevitably, the discussion turned to technology – specifically, Web2.0 and social software.

What was not discussed (it was one day after all) was expectations around issues of “controlling the narrative”. While an author in the project teams, may understand the narrative as linear – microcontent consumed in particular order of posts and in a particular time – the consumer may consume that story in any order and may link stories that the authors have little or no awareness of. The consumer cannot be passive but must select links to follow as well as being able to seek out alternative perspectives and counter arguments via online searches, etc..

One key aspect of interest in this is how the organisation reacts – are counter narratives viewed as learning resources leading to questions of how the communication of the change can be improved, is the change being delivered in the most effective, is the organisation more complex and fragmented than had been understood etc? In other words, will it be recognised that the counter narrative is a potentially rich resource for better understanding the nuances and inconsistencies of the organisation – see this interesting post for more.

Change management is notoriously poor in delivering what it set out to achieve. Do social software tools provide a potential means of gathering data that could enable a more intelligent, reactive and ultimately successful change process?

Might this also suggest a more knowledge, knowing and learning focus for management where many of the marketing tools, approaches and mind-sets are applied to the engagement of employees?

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