Do we ever wonder why well-intentioned ‘initiatives’ fall flat? Instead of basking in glory, we’re mourning their demise.
Neuroscience might help us understand the reasons and remedies. Our brains detest uncertainty and ambiguity. It’s often a lack of clarity in an initiative’s context and purpose that lies at the root of the issue.
Imagine people listening to one of your leadership team and hearing their opinion on why, how and what is expected. Great, that’s understood.
Now imagine another leader comes along with a slightly different story or spin about the way forward, reflecting their personal priorities.
And then imagine this happening again and again with a different message and a different focus each time. As it cascades, the message mutates.
Confused, you bet! Who and what are your people going to believe? Which path are they supposed to follow?
That is the tale of only one initiative! What if this is the case when leaders at all levels talk differently about Health, Safety, Wellbeing, Environment or even Production throughout the organisation?
One significant lever we can use to addresses this fundamental barrier to engagement and initiative success, is an aligned Strategic Narrative. Creating a strongly aligned Strategic Narrative is emerging as a hot topic amongst our clients.
Looking at the Science
Research shared by Engage for Success, the government body set up in 2012 to look at the impact of engagement on performance, shows our brains like to predict and make sense of what is going on around us. If they can predict, they can keep us safe and conserve energy.
In addition, because ‘thinking’ uses a huge amount of energy and the brain wants to conserve energy, we often rely on past experiences and make assumptions – and these might not always be correct. Change, by its very nature, prevents our brains from predicting and ambiguity is even worse: our brains really don’t know what to make of it. Uncertainty means we become anxious and distracted.
A misaligned Strategic Narrative generates ambiguity, and we know from neuroscience that ambiguity leads to fear, uncertainty and doubt…
Which increases the likelihood of stress…
Which leads to avoidance behaviour kicking in and people retrenching to where they felt comfortable (and that certainly isn’t going to be engaging with any change that takes them somewhere that’s ambiguous and scary).
Show me a strategy that has worked without its people!
A clear line of sight
Neuroscience also supports the need for a clear line of sight between us and the purpose of the organisation.
A line of sight gives us clarity; knowing how we contribute provides a sense of belonging, a sense of being valued and of a sense of status as well, because our work matters and makes a difference.
All this switches on the production of oxytocin which puts our brains into a positive mindset.
Clarity and certainty, the opposites to ambiguity and uncertainty, are key to delivering any strategy.
The antidote to ambiguity and uncertainty is an aligned (and well communicated!) Strategic Narrative. Without it there won’t be sufficient engagement, there won’t be the necessary improvements and there will be no collective move forward.
If you’re responsible for successfully delivering an initiative, you really should be considering how well defined your organisation’s Strategic Narrative is. Then, how well it reflects current context and activities, whether it has been uniformly adopted by all leaders, and how engaging it is. A weakness in any of those factors would indicate some alignment work is required on it.
Facilitated by expert cultural change consultants, our strategic narrative consulting workshop provides the space you need to create a compelling, authentic and empowering strategic narrative. We equip you with the knowledge, tools and support you need to create, communicate and live your organisation’s authentic strategic narrative.
Resilient People in Resilient Organisations
Our specialist culture change consultants work with organisations across the globe to create a culture of safety and wellbeing. We harness the impact of improved leadership & engagement to create organisational resilience and optimal health & safety performance. OCAID stands for Organisational Culture And Individual Development
Contact us to discuss your project or dig deeper:
Cultural Safety | Behavioural Safety | Engagement & Wellbeing