Let’s talk about stories in organisations. Stories form out the narratives told by your team members when they are talking about their workplace; the things that they enjoy or don’t enjoy. What they would like to change and that guy from Marketing who constantly talks about his cats/home projects/kayaking trips etc. You know the stories we are talking about.
There are always shared experiences among groups of people in an organisation, whether the people that share them know that they do, or not. Sometimes it is an obviously shared experience that is an ‘identifiable obstacle’ to business development. Other times there are a lot of unrevealed, intertwined stories that need separate attention. Listening to stories and discovering what is at the heart of an organisation can make all the difference for executives who want to be able to effectively employ the tools that the business is paying for.Listening to stories and discovering what is at the heart of an organisation can make all the difference for executives who want to be able to effectively employ the tools that the business is paying for. Click To Tweet
To tease out the stories that are affecting an organisation, you need to listen to all levels. It is important to only extrapolate stories horizontally across an organisation and not assume that the stories will resonate vertically. This does not mean that you need to talk to every single person, rather than you need a representative cross-section and it is important not to neglect the often underrepresented front-line employees.
Taking care of child carers
One of our clients wanted to roll out Office 365 across their organisation. This client was a childcare provider with over 2000 childcare facilities across Australia. The decision-making centre that housed the executive team and support services control the information flow to the many childcare centre employees, managers and assistant managers. Talking to the team at the support centre was an informative experience. Talking to the educators in the childcare centres was an informative experience as well. The challenge was, they were saying two different things.
Both the support centre and childcare centres sought a similar outcome, namely an effective introduction of Office 365 that reduced time consuming manual tasks and created space for more fluid internal communication and file sharing. Of course, this is not the language that the educators in the childcare centres used in their narratives when we were listening to them.
One childcare centre Manager showed us the folder that she used to manually track information about the First Aid certificate expiry dates of all her childcare workers. She had to check it every day because it was a severe breach if one of her staff worked with an expired certificate. Another centre manager talked about the time that was spent cross-referencing ‘reply all’ emails between the childcare centres in her State and the accounting team on in the support office to make sure that her spreadsheet budgets were up to date. A third manager showed us a stack of Sign-in, Sign-out sheets that needed to be back signed by parents that had picked up or dropped off their child previously without properly completing the signing process.
The nature of the childcare industry and its strict regulations meant that these were critical activities with short time frames. Getting the activities completed in their various forms meant that across the board, the managers in the child care centres worked through their lunch breaks every single day. This was a shared experience derived from the narratives of different people at the same organisational level. The resulting story that we used was ‘These changes are going to help you get your lunch break back’ and it resonated very strongly throughout the organisation amongst the childcare centre Management teams sparking interest in the coming changes and assisting buy-in.
Significantly for the business, this shared experience of not being able to take a lunch break affected wider organisational goals because pivotal members of the business did not have the time and energy to focus on them. Sharing this story back to the support centre put the problems that the childcare centre Managers and Assistant managers were having in real terms for the support centre staff and executives, and assisted in focusing the goals of the Office 365 rollout.