When we try to communicate complex, abstract concepts, it makes better sense to use a metaphor. For example, while explaining a change management initiative- like introducing lean processes, or teamwork in a traditional organization, moving into a knowledge sharing or innovation-based culture. There are any number of movies where a leader using a sports metaphor inspires teamwork to implement his vision. There are also any number of research studies on how to inspire teamwork, where individual achievement has been the norm. The idea is to appeal to emotionality; because mere rational tools are inadequate. Results indicate that metaphors can be a useful tool for helping individuals understand and accept the importance of teamwork. Today, in some organizations which I work with, needs that dose of framing. One business leader calls himself a Gardener instead of Director. While grooming his GenY employees, it helps them become disciplined innovators. Another business leader called himself Grim Reaper during an employee downsizing exercise. That helped the “walking wounded” teams heal themselves and take up additional responsibilities after downsizing. Today’s organizations are familiar with Rollercoaster rides, “becoming the moving target” “slap on the face”, “teams simmering in the Pressure Cooker”, or Marathon Effects, Juggling & Dropping some Balls, Big Brother Acquisitions, say, in the Telecom industry. That has become the New Normal for many. “Who moved my Cheese?”, Job redesign and Grief Cycle have become standard vocabulary in several sectors too. Some Sectors have even used Imminent Death as a metaphor to help understand the grim organizational realities. Some managers have had to Abandon Ship…which is a tragedy whichever way you look at it. Some employees described “Free Fall” or “Caught in an Iron Cage”, “Carried by the Current” or even “Tsunami” or, “It was Cast in Stone”. It was easier for “those who saw the writing on the Wall” or “Silver linings at the end of the cloud/ tunnel” or “were in the Driver’s Seat” or realized “we couldn’t drop the ball” or “culture was the glue that made it doable” Those who had to cope with “the Cream was off the Custard” or “Cushioned by the Network” were the lucky ones. Successful managers have played along with the affected – indeed used the same words to heal. They sailed in the same boat, while were Learning from the Book of Life. In a more comparatively benign scenario, the failure of inter-departmental communication was there for all to see. The prospective solutions were discussed, teams were asked to ponder the likely perspectives of other participants by assigning counter positions in a training situation. For example, the sales manager and a production manager were called to a meeting to discuss lagging sales of a new product. The trainer asked the sales manager to open the meeting with a discussion of ways in which the product could be presented more effectively to prospective customers. The production manager could then lead a discussion of how potential changes in the product or improvements in its quality might make it easier to sell. This approach forces each individual to adopt another’s perspective instead of rushing to frame the problem as someone else’s failure. The Metaphor used was that In The Company’s Journey, We are Co-Passangers. The Destination is a Common Goal. We Exchange the Role of Driver and Navigator. The traditional, less effective managers and problem solvers tend to interpret everything from a fixed standpoint. Instead, situations and problems can be framed and reframed in different ways allowing new kinds of solutions to emerge. Do you have an experience where metaphors have made it possible to cope with a grim situation; or change in attitude was possible through reframing the context? Do share with me and my readers your story of change management….
What are the lessons from this lessons:
- Add value
- Relationship is very valuable