Welcome at Stories of Change

This site is a cocreation with customers, scholars and colleagues. Their stories and experiences can be found under the hyperlinks in the text. I am grateful to everyone who generously contributed their stories. Scroll over the story titles below and experience storytelling yourself.

Too many merges are seen as a threat but we are committed to innovate

We want our employees to be proud again

Our people are sick and tired of changes

We need a good story

In these times we need powerful and charismatic leaders

Recognisable?Read more

A middle manager narrates:

I think the biggest fear is that we of ‘company’ do not become colleagues but competitors and that there is a privilege from one over the other and that the other will be closed. Now and again we receive some communication but always with the accent on ‘company’ never on us. Maybe that is to welcome the new comers but I do feel there is some sort of praise and that the other…oh we already knew them. Whilst very good things are happening here. Do they want us all to share one roof, how much bigger can this company become? Or is it the same old story of lifting to discover there are only so many seats to fill, where will they and who are these people?

This manager is clearly not involved with the changes taking place. He is insecure about the effect, continuous changes have on himself and his team. He is struggling with his role, the position of his team in the organization. Talking about “they” and “us” will have its effect on his role as a leader and could easily infect his team members, separating them further. In this environment, leadership would be advised to make sure to engage and connect the existing organization with the changes and frame mergers as innovations, rather then threats. In dialogue with organizational members, storytelling can play a vital role in understanding the organization and engaging members with the changes. The process could lead to a different frame: from threat of losing jobs to opportunity in innovation.

An employee narrates:

I know I told you this before, but I am not sure you recorded it on tape. It is an unsafe environment here, really unsafe. I think if I would find another job now I would have to get used to the fact that I do not need to check and double check what is happening around me. After so many years I am used to continuously look over my should; it comes with the job..

I don’t know who you are interviewing but you have to tell them to clear their diary after they set the appointment. Or at least, erase your name. I know, I might sound crazy but everything is scrutinized here. They already know long since that you are collecting stories. Even my colleague [points at the desk in front of her] who has no official access to my diary, know exactly what my day looks like. I am sure he knows I am talking to you…

One cannot force employees to be proud; this story reflects a culture of fear and apprehension. The new leader contacted Stories of Change because he wanted his organization (1200 employees) to reconnect. There is passion galore but in this environment pride has no place (yet). Collecting these stories and repeating, we cocreated a story of change. This story and hearing the lived stories helped the leader to understand and engage. Repeating those stories gave the organization the confidence to change their attitude and behaviour.

A team leader narrates:

And, yes, here comes the story about players that have to play the game. To which my colleague says: nice story but if that same director keeps taking players off my field because he needs them elsewhere, it reaches a limit. Then I cannot play the game anymore. Because there is only one player left and he works his fingers to the bone; alone. I thought to myself; all very well these metaphors but do realize what you are instigating; In that same period six people in one department lost their jobs: and here you there are with your little players! You cannot say: this is the game you are expected to play whilst you sent away yet another couple of the players.

How long can I expect that team to be prepared to play that game? Because football with only one man left and one man right, is not a lot of fun at all, you know!

This team leader is clearly upset with job cuts. The message by his director emphasizes a lack of compassion and understanding of the day to day challenges he faces. Hiding messages behind metaphors is not a good idea, in times of change. A leader needs to take employees seriously and narrate their stories into his or her own message is a much better idea. It indicates you understand your organization and forces you to take the present situation on board, to help your people to look at the desired future objectives.

Department head narrates:

Sometimes people ask me to explain a little bit about vaccines and I am totally willing to share, but I don’t have a strong story. I don’t work with vaccines but I would love to feel empowered, to speak a little about that business and what are their key selling points. I don’t have that, so I always tell them, this is great, we will be in the prevention world, be patient, this will pay off. I try to give my selling speech, but I am not totally convinced myself.

The manager indicates that due to lack of information, he is unable to make sense of investment choices by his leaders. He does not only need a story for his audience but he clearly needs one for himself. Not having a “good” story to tell is an indication that Communication needs to better connect. In this case, also inform people outside the vaccine arena; they need to feel their own role in the full spectrum of research & development. Just making a vaccine story will not work in this case.

A therapist narrates:

On the one hand they give everyone a voice and at the same time it feels like; we are handing you some candy so you feel that you are at least… I know it was never their intention but maybe that’s history now; the way it always was in the past. Implementing this research committee that gives advice, advice that is not binding in any way, I do recognize that from other places of work. It makes one think: ah, here is another one of those. So it’s very suspicious. But either one way or another, it is good that the old culture is moving. People talk about a culture of fear in the past: if you spoke up, you were called to the board. A nasty culture it was. But now nobody is talking about this anymore. At these round table talks, the atmosphere seems genuine and sincere. And ‘name director’ later refers to topics discussed there. That gives confidence, if you receive a mail a few weeks after the conference, saying: are you working on this yet? I really enjoy that…

This doctor started her story from a negative frame. As the story progresses, she realizes that things have actually changed for the better. She becomes more and more positive, whilst narrating. This is a typical sensemaking story. In view of leadership it indicates the type of leader the organization would need to make this major transition work; One with authenticity, genuine and sincere. A leaders with respect for the past, prepared to build a future, in interaction with the organizational members. Storytelling can be very helpful in identifying the problem, link past, present and future and help leaders to be authentic, connect and engage with their work force.

Here are just a few questions from customers attracted to the topic of storytelling.  Which is hardly surprising considering that everyone tells stories (narratives). Stories live everywhere, they make sense of our work, live and give our experience a place and context. A story develops in dialogue with the listener, whilst we are narrating. They are real time sense making devices. Events are put into a sequence and in priority, sometimes consciously but more often spontaneous. Emotions are intertwined with ratio. It is the emotion that put people into action (the motion in the word) and make, even the smallest stories, stick. They are symbols of organizational culture. When using story in intervention, you can alter the flow of change events. The message is not sent top down but envelops. Storytelling as an interactive intervention, consists of three words; story (the medium), telling (narrating) and storytelling (the dynamics). If you want to understand what is happening in a community or organization it pays to take story seriously. They are windows to the culture, which is often perceived as invisible and untouchable. It is only a small step to use lived stories in intentional changes, transitions or research. Read more about this pioneering application of storytelling, through the stories, get inspired and become story sensitive…