One of the fundamental roles of leadership is to frame the narrative of the organization. This is easy to say but not many leaders are conscious of the importance of having an overall mental frame and an overall compelling narrative that serves as an umbrella for everything. Worse, many leaders in organizations could not perhaps answer the question of ‘the narrative’. They may recite mission and visions but this is far from describing that overall big story.
There are decisions to be made about those narratives and, even more importantly, about shifting the ones in place.
Here are three examples:
- From a performance/execution narrative that is pretty much one of the efficacy and effectiveness of the organization, to a narrative of ambition, which goes well beyond high performance to high(er) and high(er) goals and possibilities.
- From a fixing/problem solving narrative in which problems and deficiencies are the focus, to one of building something new, creating some new culture, a new organization (in which those problems are addressed or solved).
- From a ‘management of change’ narrative, to one of change-ability, permanent state of change and shaping a culture DNA where change is not a project anymore.
We could go for hours on the listing of possible shifts. It does not mean they are obligatory (!) but the conversation about which narrative is in place and whether it is fit for purpose and for the future, may force us to look at alternatives. It is a vital exercise that impacts on language and action.
I suggest we unpack this carefully. The glasses we have to see the world, creates our world. The historical language of the organization may have intrinsic liabilities now. New, younger generations, for example, may want to hear something different. Do we always know what?