Friday, April 13, 2007

An anecdote on the power of business narrative analysis

I had lunch with a former colleague yesterday, whom I hadn't seen in ten years. She related to me this story:

Last year we had a pilot of a new performance management system for our employees. The trial group was 4000 people. We had spent a lot of time on the pilot and gathered a lot of data. At the end of the trial, the VP of Human Resources printed out all the comments that had been received on the survey forms. He took them home one night and read every single one. Then he came in the next day and said, "We can't roll this system out." And that was it. The trial was very expensive. We'd gathered lots of data, lots of numbers, but the final determinant was what he read in those comments.

I had been talking to my friend about collecting and analyzing business narrative to assess organizational change using Anecdote's methods. I told her, "He didn't use a system, and comments aren't necessarily stories. But, in essence, your VP was using the narrative technique."