Listen to stories to assess organizational change

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by: John Caddell

Picture this. You're VP of sales, six months into the implementation of a new sales process, and you haven't moved your numbers one iota, after spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on systems and training and at least that much in lost productivity.

Everyone rated the classes highly, the staff uses the new lingo, the surveys indicate things are OK. But no results.

Awake late at night, by the glow of the alarm clock, you are comparing yourself to the worst sales VPs you've ever known, to see if you might in fact be worse than any of them.

What do you do?

First, take a deep breath. Or two, or three. Then it's time to get the story, the real story, from the people on the front lines.

Here's how you do it:

  1. You select a diverse group of people from across the organization who in some way affect or are affected by the new sales process.
  2. A team you select works with the individuals to ask them how they do their jobs, in detail, using concrete examples. The team records and transcribes the stories.
  3. You get the group together. Using Anecdote's sensemaking methodology, the group finds the motives, values and assumptions underlying the stories. From there, the group discovers the several key issues that are causing the biggest impediments to the new process.
  4. You work with the group to develop interventions to help address the issues and help the new process do what it's designed to do.
  5. You put the interventions into practice. Some are big, others are small, seemingly insignificant.
  6. You monitor the team's rising performance. That sales process wasn't such a lousy idea after all.

Getting the real story, and figuring out how to act on it, can be done. It will take some work and a willingness to try something new. Start off by taking the "Narrative Techniques in Business" workshop March 26 in Seattle or March 29 in Boston. Click here for registration information.

(Picture by drrivky via stock.xchng)

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