13 comments to Change Your Story, Change Your Organization

  • Fay Kandarian

    Peggy, thanks for sharing your guest post on Jesse’s blog. I’ve admired your work and contributions to the Change Handbook which is a great guide for those interested in whole systems change. Your post brings change down to the more personal level- I appreciate the reminder that change really is about the stories we tell, and our stories vary with the role we play related to each change.

    • Fay, Glad you find The Change Handbook useful. I see change as most effective when people discover what’s most personal is also universal. Imagine the power of sharing stories from our different roles to create a greater sense of the whole. In working with groups dealing with complex challenges, I have noticed a turning point when people experience themselves as part of a larger whole. They start acting as a social body, using their differences as a source of creativity.

  • It’s interesting to apply Peggy Holman’s theory to community mental health stories. I remember being a “midwife” back in the 1970s and 80s when we were building an alternative to state hospitals – bringing services to people with severe mental health problems in their own apartments. The “stabilizers” thought that only 24- hour care was adequate. We rode that wave successfully until the forces of change began to undermine it. Now we are in the midst of a second decade of decreased government funding for mental health services. Some days I am a discouraged stabilizer. But at other times there are hints of the new wave. “Best practices” fueled by the incredible power of data is one hint. If we really know what works and what doesn’t, can’t we really provide better treatment with fewer resources? I wish the “midwives” of the next wave the very best!

  • Marye Gail Harrison

    Thanks for this great post which itself is a wave rider offering a new way of looking at change. I am serving on two transition teams at the moment and will reevaluate our roles and skills using this model. I prefer to midwife and realize we may need to be sure we have enough healthy hospice workers. I will be forwarding this to my teams.

    • Marye Gail, So glad you can put these ideas to use right away. The editor I mentioned dealt with declining circulation and layoffs for years while keeping a sense of purpose alive in the newsroom and ensuring the news got out every day. It’s takes plenty of self-care to stay with it. Like hospice workers who work with people, it is a sacred role to support an organization to die — or change — well.

  • Thanks for this great post Peggy. Reminds me also of the Panarchy ecocycle, and also the book Transitions. The end of the old, and the emergence of the new. Possibility and change. In my work with Denise Easton on how we respond to disruptive experiences, we use the metaphor of the surfer extensively. How we can learn to ride and respond to the ever-changing waves.

  • I just heard a report on National Public Radio that was a great example of a wave riding story. It was on snowboarding at the Olympics. What could have been a “woe is me no Americans on the podium” story instead honored the past and focused on the future. It spoke of Shaun White, a creator turned stabilizer, who, even with his personal defeat, applauds the transition to a new era. It highlighted a rising originator. It acknowledged the US role in launching snowboarding and celebrated the excitement of it going international. Kudos to the reporter, Robert Smith, for telling a story of changing times in a way that valued everyone and leans into an emerging story. http://kuow.org/post/snowborder-shaun-white-will-leave-sochi-without-medal

    (Note: The headline and description of the story has of a “poor us” flavor. The story does not. That just makes the contrast in approaches more apparent.)

    • Jesse Lyn Stoner Jesse Lyn Stoner

      What a wonderful illustration of what these roles look like in real life! Thanks for sharing this, Peggy. It’s interesting to see how an individual can change roles, and I especially appreciate your showing how the waver rider helps us make meaning of events.

      • Jesse, I was particularly excited about this story because it modeled a style of reporting that can help us navigate changing times. Imagine if issues like health care or education were covered in this way. It would help more of us transition between cultural narratives.

  • Thanks for this helpful post and framing of how to see various roles in these larger changes. I wasn’t sure if I fall into the midwife or wave rider. I am a consultant working in this emerging area of using networked ways of working, across organizations/sectors, to address large scale systems changes, such as transitioning to local food systems or moving off fossil fuels to renewables/energy efficiency (www.ndcollaborative.com). I work as a coach/guide with innovators inventing/implementing/experimenting these networked approaches and also write and teach about what I’m seeing and share the stories among my clients and networks, and participate in networks/communities of practice with other people doing this work. Feels like this work falls into both categories.

    • One way to think about the roles is who are you supporting? Midwives are focused on the birth of the new. While that no doubt involves some work with those still immersed in the current worldview, a midwife’s priority are the originators and what they are creating. Sounds to me like that’s your primary focus. Wave riders focus on the transition between world views, bringing along the broader constituency by creating or at least pointing out mental models that provide paths into the new world view.

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