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Tell Me a Story (about organisational transformation plans)

When organisational transformation plans are announced, the first thing that happens is an emotional reaction in the people impacted by them. The first question people will ask (and the only thing on their mind) will be: “How does this affect me?”

It does not matter what level of information you distribute, announcement you make or FAQ document you post: People want to know how the transformation you are planning will affect them.

This is due to the fact that people are primarily interested in three things,

  • Who they are

  • What they do

  • What the future looks like for them.

(More often than not people define themselves entirely by what they do. On a personal note I think there is a real danger in this, but I’ll save my musings on that for another day).

Therefore, when organisations announce transformation plans, it is imperative that the reasons for any changes taking place can be articulated to those affected in a concise and authentic manner.

The key points of,

  • Why we are doing this?

  • Why we think it is the best option we have

  • What will happen if we don’t make these changes?

  • And, how these changes affect you?

Have to be at the heart of any Transformation communications plan.

One of the best ways that transformation messages can be delivered, is by presenting the narrative as a story that links the transformation to the goals and objectives of your organisation.

If these goals and objectives are already known by those affected, they provide an anchor point of credibility to which any specific changes affecting both them and others can be tied.

The presentation of the transformation as a story also allows people to visualise what steps the organisation has to take in order to execute its strategy and protect its future success.

The transformation story should start with the goals and objectives of the organisation, which hopefully are known to all. This provides an anchor of credibility, reminding everyone why the company exists and just as importantly why everyone is actually there.

The middle of the story should provide real examples of forces affecting the organisation, market dynamics, competition, the actual things driving the change, be they good or bad news. This sets a present day context, allows considered alternatives to be highlighted and shows why the changes are required. The use of models such as Porter’s 5 Forces and relevant graphs/diagrams can be particularly effective communication tools for this stage of the story.

The end of the story should describe (in as much detail as possible) the actual changes that will take place and by when they will be completed. This is the bit where people get to know specifically what the effect (of the transformation) on them will be.

It may be worth considering involving key suppliers and customers in the exercise, especially when continuity of “business as usual” is at risk.

The really important things to remember are that any transformation story seeking to explain why change is required will only have credibility if it is,

  • Authentic

  • Can stand interrogation

  • Is the same story for every audience

  • Is completed before any transformation plans are announced.

If gaps in the story are found, the resultant loss of trust will stop a transformation program dead in its tracks, damage the credibility of those delivering the story and of any proposed future transformation initiatives.

If you don’t have all the detail that supports the story, don’t announce the transformation. Moreover, if you can’t write the story (as outlined above), it’s unlikely your transformation plan is fit for purpose and ready to implement.

Authentic, credible and well-structured transformation stories are not difficult to write (as long as you have a plan and know what you’re doing) and they will always be fundamental to the success of your transformation projects.

The time and effort to write your story is worth it, not only for you, but also for the people whose lives may be impacted by the transformation plans you are about to implement.

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