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Communicating quality through storytelling

How to improve engagement with quality issues through telling stories.

By Sandy Domingos-Shipley CQP MCQI

Humans have been telling stories throughout history, passed from generation to generation through cave drawings, word of mouth, printed materials and now the internet.

Stories and legends help children learn about the world and make sense of complex ideas or emotions. But the power of storytelling isn’t limited to children. Even for adults, storytelling is still one of the most effective ways to get people engaged with a message, especially if the subject is complex or not particularly exciting.

I love using storytelling as a tool for communicating quality and change. It’s a fantastic way to get teams engaged with systems and processes. Too many quality professionals talk to their teams about clauses or policies, rather than showing why something needs to be done a certain way or why something needs to change.

Storytelling puts the audience first. It makes them the hero – or makes the hero someone to whom they can relate. It takes them on a journey.

So instead of telling your colleagues what to do, tell them a story of how it will improve things for them.

Explaining change

For example, you might start your story with a real-life scenario: “Remember last year when we had all those problems with ABC, and it resulted in XYZ? There was that particular incident where...”

Then you’d go on to introduce the solution and finish by explaining the expected or desired outcome.

This is far more engaging than simply saying: “We need to start doing this because clause 9 of ISO 9001 says we have to.”

Change can be difficult for employees to accept, particularly if they don't understand why the change is necessary. Stories can be used to illustrate the need for change and explain the benefits of that change.

The key to great storytelling

Decide on your objective: What is the purpose of your story – what do you want to inspire the audience to do? How do you want them to feel or think as a result of hearing your story?

Know your audience: Understand who the members of your audience are, their interests, and how they like to receive information. This will help you to craft a compelling story that resonates with them.

Craft the right narrative: Take them on the journey. Create a story arc with a clear beginning, middle and end. Set the scene, make the characters real or relatable, introduce conflict and end with a resolution.

Make it relevant: Use examples and analogies that are relevant to your audience's experiences. This helps to make the story more relatable and memorable.

Incorporate data and metrics: Use data and metrics to support the story and demonstrate the impact of change and quality. Use visuals to make the data more accessible.

Encourage participation: Invite feedback and suggestions to build trust and create a sense of community. Get your colleagues to share their own stories and experiences.

Share success stories: By sharing stories of how other organisations have successfully navigated similar changes, you can reassure colleagues that change is possible and can lead to positive outcomes.

Review your story: Did your story work? Were your colleagues engaged? Did it have the desired outcome? How could you improve your story or the way you tell it?

Using stories to build better businesses

Storytelling isn’t just an effective tool for communication, change and policies – it can also be a great tool to improve engagement in other areas of your business.

Communicate values: If you’re trying to build a culture of quality and continuous improvement, then both should be included in your values. By sharing stories about how your organisation has demonstrated those values in action, you can reinforce them in the minds of your colleagues. This helps create a culture where values are not just words on a page.

Motivate your teams: Success stories are a great way to celebrate the achievements of your employees. By sharing such stories, you can motivate and inspire your employees to strive for their own successes. Focus on factors that contributed to the success and show how those factors can be replicated in other areas of the organisation.

Build connections: Stories can help to build connections between employees and colleagues. By sharing tales about the history and culture of the organisation, you can help employees feel a sense of belonging and pride in their work. Stories can also be used to build connections between employees from different departments or sites by highlighting shared experiences or challenges.

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