Storytelling is the landscape painter for change management

New service methods and sharing insights are rooted in storytelling methods. Compelling narratives outline the spine for all aspects of a company’s service, from the lives of its customers, to design employes experiences.



Transformational-change actions have a negative historical track record. In 1996, Harvard Business School professor John Kotter stated that nearly 70 percent of large-scale change programs did not meet their goals, and virtually every survey since has shown similar results. Why is change so confounding? The issue lies with the understanding of its building blocks—Kotter’s classic eight-step change-management model is still a helpful guide. The main challenge concerns who is responsible for launching the change process and how change is then implemented (McKinsey, 2014).


Davide Boje (2008) states that storytelling within organisations is about how to make people and the organisation sees the world through lenses of narrative and story. These stories are about dispersion of events in a wide frame of time – past to present – in order to design a feasible future.


‘Storying’ and ‘re-storying’ is an on-going process in this volatile world where people need to make sense and give sense to their lived experience. In the light of threatened identities, where conflict and resistance become prominent through ‘storying’ processes, clashing stories are on the spotlight during disputed change (Dawson and MacLean, 2013).


Innovation leader Claudia Kotchka helped to bring in Design Thinking at Procter & Gamble. For her, getting people involved to the methodology directly was a milestone. As she states, “Show, don’tell. The bottom line is, you just have to get as many people through it as you can. Because once someone experiences it, they are forever changed.” To achieve a cultural change Kotchka built design into the heart of P&G large organisation. (Kelly, T. 2013)


Firstly, Kotchka received the toughest problems from the P&G leaders. Then she set up an innovation fund to send a group of ‘conservative’ P&G executives to IDEO to work step by step with designers on some of the troublesome issues. Ultimately employees were trained as facilitators so they could conduct the workshops themselves. The workshop guided employees using brainstorming, researching end users, building prototypes, and enlarging upon concepts to a problem they were facing.


In seven years of Claudia Kotchka’s leadership, P&G built world-class capability. During the organisational change journey there are a few key areas.


Shared stories of confidence from who experienced the new innovation approach were proofs of its value. “Prototyping is both powerful innovation tool and powerful cultural value.” As Claudia explains: “In prototyping I have permission to be wrong and I want your feedback if it’s not working“. Which means ideas are no longer untouchables. If they were rejected, there were no bad feelings as if your idea had got killed.


We live in changes of era as much as we live in a world where we need to address the context more than the content. Ideas disjointed from the context in which they were generated often lose their resonance as they filter through an organisation. When placed within effective and accessible narratives, instead they are able to maintain their relevance, even when presented to people unfamiliar with how the project was conducted. Storytelling can help companies re-orientate their business and organisation around new service design principles.



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