From a strategic standpoint human resource strategy is often about organizational change. One of the best models to use when changing an organization is that developed by Edward Deming is part of the quality improvement of the 1960s to 1990s. What his research found is the changing an organization’s culture is a seven-year process. It starts with (1) studying the system, followed by (2) developing measures and metrics, (3) understanding and (4) removing sources of variability, followed by (5) understanding drivers of the average behavior and (6) improving that behavior, culminating in (7) stabilizing the system on continuous improvement. The process is outlined in the “Example Human Resources and Cultural Strategic Plan” figure.
Important in Demming’s change process is that the whole is only as strong as its weakest link. In each year of the change process, attention and support needs to be applied to those departments and functional areas making the slowest progress.
When undertaking change in R&D or new business development organizations concept often neglected is that of faith. “Faith” is a concept that is often dismissed in business, as though faith and science were polar opposites. It doesn’t work unless and until put to use. When faith is exercised it expands in four different dimensions. (1) Trust turns into commitment. When there is sufficient trust between and among participants the commitment to do something becomes possible. (2) Competence transforms into courage. When enough confidence builds up, we’re encouraged, or able to encourage others, to do the next right thing. (3) Hope translates into participation or engagement. With sufficient hope faith morphs into engaged in focused minds and hearts to become immersed in what needs to be done. (4) Belief extends into vision. And finally when belief becomes conviction, our minds can envision where intentions lead us. Good R&D leaders understand the cycle and track where their organization is in the model throughout a change process. This is shown schematically in the “Conceptual Model of Faith” figure.
Finally, when integrating all business functions as part of innovation teams those organizations and teams have to become more unified, responsive, and intelligent. Storytelling is a management technique championed by gurus including Peter Senge, Tom Peters and Larry Prusak. Stephen Denning, an innovator in the new discipline of organizational storytelling, feel stories that change people (springboard stories) have a certain shape and form. There are three essential keys:
Of these the third most important element is connectedness. Connectedness: The springboard story, however condensed, has to link the audience with a positive controlling idea and a protagonist with whom the audience empathizes.
The second key element is strangeness. Strangeness: A springboard story must violate the listener’s expectations in some way. They involve a certain element of surprise or incongruity.
Making the story strange but not too strange entails a story that is close to home, but not too close. The analogy must be tight but not too tight. So the story must have some comprehensibility. Comprehensibility: the story has to embody the idea so as to spring the listener into a new level of understanding.
Storytelling is also a key element in integrating organizations. People need to understand their relationships to one another and the work at hand. It’s important to note that stores in printed form have a very different reality from stories told in person. Printed stories may be scarcely alive. To create springboard impact, people have to live with the stories. In following a story, our understanding is not of some material object that we observe or some artifact that we set apart. In performance, the object and subject come together as one, the story tellers mind, story and listener, all one inseparable entity. Mastering the performance space can help in formal storytelling with most difficult audiences.
With the springboard story it is not the analysis that needs to ream be removed from presentations, but rather the the analysis needs to be integrated in, and subordinated to, the story. Any analysis should build on the story, be related to the story, and flow from the story. In this way, we experience the analysis from inside as a participant immersed in it, rather than kind of as a lawyer, looking in from the outside, with curiosity but little empathy. The springboard story is not the solution to the problems, but they can spark the audience to discover solutions for themselves.
When designing a springboard story presentation there are four main options to consider:
1. Immediacy: launching into a story at the outset has been proven effective, even when it isn’t a direct answer to the question (or presentation topic) that had been proposed.
2. Serendipity: when we are not too sure of the follow-up actions we want from the presentation, the telling of multiple stories can help enhance the chances of the audience co-creating the follow-up items.
3. Sensitization: stark delineation of ongoing problems can help an unreceptive audience to see the relevance of a springboard story.
4. Urgency: where time is short, the whole weight of the argument may be placed on one single story.