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Using Stories to Create Engagement About Change

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On 27 July Dr Susanne Evans, organisation change consultant, presented to an enthusiastic room-full of members of the Midlands Branch at Birmingham Conference & Events Centre, near New St Station.

Susanne explained that some traditional change models miss crucial ‘human’ aspects such as stories, conversations and focus too much on advocacy of the change rather than inquiry. (Susanne did refer to the William Bridges model – which is good and does provide a holistic view).

Listening is also crucial to reveal the ‘big-picture’ - old stories will often provide the underlying reasons for resistance to change (for example, reticence to work with ‘outsiders’).

Stories are part of human evolution, building a story from random images, using the Heider-Simmel illusion as a great example of this. Susanne’s advice is to ‘ensure you have a story structure’ and Mike Adams’ “7 Stories every Salesperson must tell” shows the common framework for a good story. Susanne referred to Steve Hearsum, who talks about there being ‘no magic bullet’ to organisational change, even though corporations continue to search for one.

Susanne’s ChangeStoriesTM model – ARIAS – ensures that storytelling is at the heart of the inquiry:









Collaboration is also vital, and Susanne talked about ‘Resistance as feedback’, as discussed by former Olympic Rower Cath Bishop.

In order to gain ‘buy-in’ from stakeholders, Susanne suggested the SCARF – Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness, Fairness (David Rock, Your Brain at Work) – as the model to use, and SOAR Analysis (Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations, Results) for group work (can be better than SWOT as it removes the tendency to focus on weaknesses).

Finally, Susanne explained how using inquiry can ‘get underneath the ice’, and advised that you should build your storytelling skills ( by ‘being authentic with your stories’ - and don’t forget to practice!

Susanne hosts ChangeStories for people interested in Change. Listen here:

Donna Unitt, Chair of the Enabling Change SIG promoted a new Webinar on Sept 6th – Making Communications Land – Pertinance and Proximity

References & Further reading:

Anecdote – Story Powered Communication
William Bridges - Transition model

Noel Tichy - Managing strategic change: Technical, political and cultural dynamics

Steve Hearsum – No Magic Bullet

Heider-Simmel illusion
Dr Cath Bishop The Long Win: Why Winning in Business Isn't Just About Coming First TEDx ESCPLondon

Mike Adams - Seven Stories every salesperson must tell - Sales Accelerator Leadership Forum

David Rock – Your Brain At Work

Susanne has very kindly allowed her presented material to be made available for viewing. The slides on Slideshare are now available in our APM resources area and also embedded below for reference.


Dr Susanne Evans, Organisation Change Consultant

Dr Susanne Evans is an organisation change consultant and researcher on a mission to change the way that transformations are managed.

Having spent 10 years in Big 4 consultancy firms, she saw first-hand how difficult it was to achieve the benefits of large-scale transformation programmes and set up Feldspar Consulting in 2007 to enable her clients to lead change differently. Her PhD research focused on the role of stories in transformation and she distilled both this research and her 25 years of hands-on consultancy experience to create the ChangeStoriesTM approach, enabling her clients to use stories, ask questions and have powerful conversations to drive change.

As well as writing and speaking regularly for platforms such as the Change Management Institute and Business Transformation Network, Susanne also hosts open storytelling workshops, supporting people in writing a compelling story for themselves.

She is the host of the popular ChangeStories podcast, in which guests share ideas for improving the way that changes are managed in organisations.

APM Body of Knowledge 7th edition:

3.3.6 Continuing professional development (CDP)


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