A Simple Illustration of the Difference Between Stories and Reports
Diary Entry Thursday 05/05/2016
in the last five years we have lost a lot of dedicated and hardworking people. Actually not just dedicated and hardworking, those words seem a little stuffy, too businessy and insufficient. The people we lost were; funny, grumpy, smart, awkward, helpful, supportive, lonely, friendly and fun. We had relationships with them, they were our colleagues, lunch buddies, bosses, teams, inspirations, arch enemies, and friends. They were the heart and soul of this organisation, we spent nearly as much time together as with our families.
Those of us remaining live in the silence spaces left behind, and feel a growing distance from those with power.
We who remain know we are not immune to redundancy, our names are on the list too. This year and next the red pen will hover over each of our names before moving on, or crossing us out. Letting us stay or sending us home to our loved ones to break the news. This industry does not exist anywhere else in this area, if we lose our jobs we either move or change our loved careers. We know it is coming, the ‘Strategic Streamlining Plan’ has told us the cuts would be hardest at the start, but they will continue for at least another two years. At least another two.
Still the work continues, our customers are still here with their demands. Nervous managers now watch us like hawks collecting more and more stats to protect themselves. Jumping on anyone whose statistics drop, regardless of the reason. It is not about quality of service any more, which is at an all-time low, it is about the quality of the reports. It is not about support, trust and connectivity, it is about suspicion, and every man or women for themselves.
My office is quiet now, the energy, excitement, trust and security have all gone. I wonder what there is left for me here, what is left to hold on to? Should I jump or wait to get pushed? And who will be there to catch me?
Or to put it another way….
Strategic Streamlining Plan – Report to Stakeholders 08/09/2016 (Confidential)
As a result of the timely roll out of the Strategic Streamlining Plan we have managed to reduce our annual staffing costs by £1.7m over the past 5 years. A further annual saving of £150,000 is expected by the end of this year, and £85,000 in each of the following two years. A total saving by the end of the process will be £2.02m.
Thanks to the work of the Director of Quality Improvement we will ensure continued customers satisfaction with the roll out of our new £45,000 Key Performance Indicator (KPI) tracking system. This system will enable us to track the performance of each member of staff in real time. It will also be supported by a redesign of our current meeting structure, ensuring all department heads and team leaders meet at least once a week to identify improvement opportunities based on the system data. Failure to deliver on agreed improvements will also be tracked by the system. These meeting have already started in some areas. A full report of progress, issues, and actions taken will be presented to the board monthly. This report will be co-ordinated by the Quality Manager.
Another positive outcome of the Strategic Streamlining Plan is staff now have more space in which to work. We predict these quieter spaces will lead to increased focus and increased levels of productivity, further ensuring continual improvement of our services.
Obviously there has been an impact on staff, but this has been kept to a minimum thanks to our effective communications strategy. The new KPI tracking system and meeting structure also gives staff clear focus and a sense of achievement which will help us tackle any issues of moral going forwards.
Hopefully you can feel a difference in these two accounts of the same situation. I use the word ‘feel’, because even something as every day as reading this article is an embodied experience, engaging you mentally, physically and emotionally.
Everything we do in organisations engages us mentally, physical and emotionally, and it is in the presence of these ‘lived experiences’ that we; talk, lead, make decisions, create, invent, connect, plan and deliver. Stories present opportunities to find insights essential for effective decision making, staff engagement and leadership. Insights that cannot be captured by reports.
When we rely on reports that only present the logical and rational, as is traditional in business, we are actively choosing to reduce the depth of useful data on which we base our decisions.
When there is a void between our lived experience of the organisation and that presented by our reports we experience a sense of distance. We can feel detached, disengaged, unsatisfied, and decisions made can feel out of touch. Only when we engage fully with our mental, physical and emotional experience of working together can we truly connect, and release the human potential of our organisations.
And that needs stories.
Besides when was the last time you curled up on the sofa to lose yourself in a really great report?