First, change the narrative. Then, create the change.
The good news…
There are tons of change frameworks. On a recent trip to Africa, I heard several of them being discussed in the context of NFP/NGO organizations. Government now embraces change management. This is good. Many business organizations could learn a thing or two from the change frameworks.
The disappointing news…
I also heard a person who works for an organization say that change frameworks annoy her greatly as they simply don’t work in her area of specialization.
Needless to say, making change happen can be frustrating. There’s no shortage of organizations that say, ‘We tried that and it didn’t work!’
Of course everybody wants change to happen — usually, their way! So, they tell you about the problem that makes the change necessary. Then, they go on to explain more about why the problem makes it hard to achieve a solution — unless it’s their solution. Few say, ‘You are largely interested in the things that we get wrong, rarely in the things that we get right.’
Change is happening all the time. Our role is to identify useful change and amplify it.
— Gregory Bateson
In business organizations, a lot of people can be working on the problems of the firm. Useful work can often be done by defining the cause of problems, but it can also delay working on the solutions, as well as the decisions that will lead to the solutions. So, the dominant narrative is about understanding barriers and overcoming them.
So, the dominant narrative is about understanding barriers and overcoming them.
Want to help someone? Shut up and listen!
— Ernesto Sirolli
How do we bring vitality to business planning, develop that customer-driven strategy, or truly innovate? How do we enable collaboration and naturally enhance management skills?
First, change the narrative.
Take the problem caretakers seriously, not literally. They mean what they say. But don’t enter into their narrative. Instead, ask questions about when the problem doesn’t exist.
Be mindful of your language. There’s a big difference between, ‘What needs to be done to fix things?’ and ‘Suppose we make progress, what will you, (or the customer), see happening?’
Reframe their problem-focus by acknowledging it constructively. ‘If you were in the shoes of some of our clients, what concerns would they have for themselves?’ Followed by, ‘What are our grounds for optimism that our effort to be helpful to the clients will be a great success?’
Think of their perceived difficulties as useful misunderstandings. Tell them, ‘I/we understand your view.’ Then, ‘How have you/we coped?’ And, ‘What has been going well for you lately?’
None of this approach is ‘soft.’ It’s actually a disciplined reframing exercise that helps problem-focused change advocates gradually move to the solutions they want without assuming their advocacy of problem resolution will make things happen. They will soon learn, ‘When I insist, you resist!’
A shift in the narrative change leads to real change.