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Narrative reveals values in action

Posted by  Mark Schenk —January 11, 2006
Filed in Business storytelling

ValuesDuring the course of 2005 we ran many narrative projects on a range of topics including project evaluation, occupational health and safety, trust, change management and culture change.  In each case one of the valuable outcomes was the exposure of the values in action in the organisation.  In several cases, the values in action were significantly different from the organisation’s espoused values.  In one occupational health and safety project, the values in action identified included:

  • Operations are more important than safety
  • OHS is not valued and is not a priority for managers
  • The organisation only reacts to OHS issues, it does not manage OHS proactively

Obviously these are not the sort of values the organisation espoused and they caused much consternation for the management team.  Thankfully, the next step in the narrative approach, intervention design, provides a great vehicle for identifying the actions that can close the gap between the values in action and the desired ones.  Simple interventions can have disproportionate effect.  For example, one of the interventions in the project mentioned above was the simple step of the CEO having lunch with Chip Goodyear, CEO of BHP Billiton and strong advocate of workplace health and safety and its contribution to the bottom line. The idea of the interventions is not to ‘solve the problem’ but to initiate a portfolio of actions to change the pattern of behaviours around the values.

Narrative is also powerful where organisations wish to develop and articulate a set of values that resonate within the organisation.  As in Shawn’s previous blog on values, illustrating the values with suitable anecdotes provides a way of bringing the values to life.

Mark Schenk About  Mark Schenk

Mark works globally with senior leadership teams to improve their ability to communicate clearly and memorably. He has been a Director of Anecdote since 2004 and helped the company grow into one of the world’s leading business storytelling consultancies. Connect with Mark on:

One Response to “Narrative reveals values in action”

  1. Johnnie Moore Says:

    Mark: Interesting! Reminded me of this interesting framework some friends use to explore how stories can contribute (or diminish) a brand.

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