What is your Change Management Story

This blog will focus on storytelling as one way for IT leaders to effectively deal with the two fundamental problems they often face when the need for organisational change arises in any company. 

There are two fundamental problems IT leaders often face when the need for organisational change arises in any company. The first is gaining buy-in from the executive team, and the second is formulating a way to change how the organisation does things. We will talk about how storytelling is one way to effectively deal with these issues.

We can tell a compelling change management story that conveys the need for change and its concrete benefits to the organisation, both now and in the long term. That can get the necessary buy-in from management while also providing the narrative that drives change forward for the organisation.

Harvard University Professor Howard Gardner’s views highlight the importance of storytelling for this process and its application to change management:

“Stories constitute the single most powerful weapon in a leader’s arsenal.”

McKinsey works with global leaders to identify and solve problems they face, including change management and they feel that storytelling can be an important factor for effective business transformations:
"Stories take on added importance in a performance transformation since they are a critical mechanism to inspire the workforce and create a shared sense of purpose. The best change stories provide all workers with an understanding of how their work relates to the organisation’s overall vision.
A storyteller’s passion for and connection to the change story are essential to building momentum for a transformation. By involving a broader group of leaders in the process of crafting a change narrative, companies are essentially creating a “band and choir” that can communicate and amplify the change story at scale.”
In other words, it takes a village with many different voices working together to successfully implement a major IT change. 

The Classic Elements of Change

In any IT change story, the following elements are necessary for success:

  • Delivering value in the form of genuine improvements in functioning
  • Improved working conditions as a result of the change
  • Having everyone be involved in the change process
  • Supporting everyone through all steps of the process
  • Setting clear expectations for the change, so everyone is prepared

Leaving out any one of these elements will reduce the likelihood of a successful change and leave the change story incomplete. If the change is successful, it will likely be in spite of the process rather than because of it, and there are to be more problems and obstacles likely along the way than there need to be. 

Hence, telling a compelling IT change story increases employees’ confidence in their leadership and its ability, particularly around the difficult area of change. Storytelling that showcases a successful change will increase employees’ trust in their leadership’s ability to spearhead future changes and help them support these changes as they arise.

What steps can you as IT leaders take to create your story for change management buy-ins?

Craft the Narrative

Identify important building blocks for your story:

  1. Identify the protagonist of the story and keep it at the centre.
  2. What does the protagonist want?
  3. What are the conditions at the beginning of the story like?
  4. What are the distractions or obstacles the protagonist faces during the story?
  5. How is the conflict resolved or overcome?

For example, your protagonist could be a client who is better served after the change takes place, a group of employees who are more empowered to do their jobs or even the organisation as a whole. The idea is to use the story to demonstrate the impact of the change on the organisation. The best way to do that is to use anecdotes and quotes regarding past change initiatives from the different people involved.

Draw the Executive Team into your Story

Think about how your story engages the management team? Here are some suggestions:

  • Show how the change will make their lives easier and improve the organisation’s functioning.
  • Elaborate how the change will align with the organisation’s values and promote them.
  • Illuminate how the change might meet each executive’s particular aspirations and individual goals.

By aiming to get buy-in from higher management, your story can help drive the change throughout the organisation. For example, McKinsey found that when management starting at the executive level modelled the change for the organisation, it was nearly six-and-a-half times more successful.

Create a Shared Vision

That’s why creating a shared vision is vital for the duration of the change process. If everyone is pulling in the same direction, it’s far more likely you’ll get to the finish line together. 
A shared vision will naturally lead to greater ownership of the process, leading to feedback and requests for further change or adjustments that will improve the process. It’s important to be open to this aspect of the change process and tweaks things when needed

Then, as the change progresses, one key to success is to weave individual employees’ stories and examples of benefits into the narrative and show how the new way of doing things works across the company.
Having this shared vision is great for the long-term as well, and can help to keep everyone aligned and focused if there are difficulties or adjustments along the way.


Change management is one of the more challenging processes for company leadership, something that Enlighten can help you with. Let's talk.


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