We are so thrilled to have Robert Killen return with part 3 of his “StoryForce” series. “StoryForce” is a series of articles on the power stories wield in the lives of organizations. The purpose is to provide a guide for discovery of the nature of stories and to explore the ways we can put this discovery to valuable use for the benefit of ourselves, our organizations and the communities we serve.
Stories are powerful. They define us, both as individuals and organizations. For non-profits, gaining ownership of the organizational narrative is a powerful step toward maintaining control of your definition and culture.
There are at least seven essential stories to know and tell, but how does one gather them?
The following is a list of four strategies for assembling a powerful organizational narrative:
1. The Historian – The first of the seven essential stories is the Foundation. For many organizations how they came into being is well known and often repeated. However, for many more it’s neither. In this case it is imperative that someone be tasked with discovering the catalyst that brought the organization to life. This can be as simple as interviewing a director or it may be far more complicated, requiring some detailed sleuthing. Regardless, identifying a temporary “Historian” for this purpose is necessary.
2. Highlighting – Maintaining an ongoing positive culture requires that we continually infuse the culture with new and meaningful stories. To do this we need to highlight the successes that happen week in and week out. Those who oversee frontline work must be given the tools and training to inspire the sharing of these anecdotes and to collect them appropriately.
3. Visioning – While this is a regular process for most non-profits, creating a Future Vision as part of it is rare. This takes visioning one step further. For our purposes visioning needs to go beyond creating an abstract description. It needs to result in a clearly identified story, where a future life is fundamentally altered due to the work being done today.
4. Appreciative Inquiry – I saved the most important and intensive process for last. Appreciative Inquiry is an organizational change method which has stories at its core. Developed by David Cooperrider and others at Case Western University in the mid-1990’s, this process incorporates extensive surveys to gather positive examples of past efforts and with them builds a ‘positive core’ around which the new cultural paradigm revolves.
While any one of these strategies can benefit your organization, implementing the full complement will result in assembling a powerful collection of cultural anecdotes. With these in hand your organization has a chance to manage its own narrative. Establishing an intentional, positive and high performing culture is within reach of any non-profit willing to undertake the effort.
Part 1: The Untold Power of Story
Next week: “How Social Media Killed Old-School Marketing”
Two weeks: “Words that Burn: How Gossip and Negativity will Destroy your Culture”
Stay up to date on all the Story Force articles by signing up for NPtalk enews! Just fill out the form and you’ll get more great posts just like this straight to your inbox!