Managerial Storytelling

Introduction

Welcome to the project site of Storytelling in Management Practice: Dynamics and Implications, a platform for the latest research findings on the use of storytelling in management practice. This research was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) under the First Grants Scheme (RES-061-25-0144-A) concluded in August 2012 and received an evaluation of 'very good' (the second highest category).

Research Aims

The use of storytelling as a management communication tool is being advocated as the missing trick. On the basis of anecdotal evidence from management practitioners and consultants, it is said to improve organizational communication, knowledge-sharing, change and learning in organizations, to name but a few. A number of management practitioners have already been convinced that ‘storytelling works’.

However, it has remained largely unknown how storytelling in management practice is understood and applied by business leaders and management consultants and how it is manifested in an organizational context. Therefore, this research sought to reveal the dynamics of managerial storytelling with a focus on:

  1. the types of stories that are used in different management contexts and situations;
  2. the factors that support and inhibit the effective use of storytelling in management practice;
  3. the limits of storytelling in management practice.

In short, this research sought to evaluate claims about the effectiveness of storytelling in communication between managers and their subordinates and to provide better understanding of how storytelling is used by management practitioners in their daily work.

Research Context

This research has three main elements.

  1. A case study with an organization that uses storytelling purposively in management and organizational practice.
  2. A control case study with an organiation that does not use storytelling purposively in management and organizational practice to establish whether grass-root storytelling practices vary.
  3. A series of interviews with reflective storytelling practitioners (expert interviews), such as business managers, management consultants, coaches, facilitators and independent researchers.

Case study 1 with a public-private partnership (which I call NorthService Ltd. in publications) was conducted between September and December 2010 with 25 individual in-depth interviews with a diverse set of organizational actors plus three group interviews with managers and employees.

Case study 2 with the administration department of an educational institution (which I call NorthEdu in publications) was conducted between January and March 2012 with 25 individual in-depth interviews with a diverse set of organizational actors to roughly match the interviewee profile of the first case study.

The expert interviews were conducted on an on-going basis between 2011 and 2012, and the sample includes personal contacts, practitioners who contacted me in relation to the research and practitioners who participated in workshops that were organized as part of the project.

Research Findings

The research provided rich insights into storytelling in management practice, which were published in the project book entitled Storytelling in Management Practice: Dynamics and Implications by Routledge.

Our analysis has focused on storytelling employed by managers and business leaders in communication with their employees rather than external stakeholders (such as clients).

A summary of our main findings is presented here. As data analysis and publication is on-going, please contact Dr Stefanie Reissner, the Principal Investigator of this research, directly for further details.

Selected Publications

  • Reissner, S C and Pagan, V (2013). Storytelling in Management Practice: Dynamics and Implications. Abingdon: Routledge.
  • Reissner, S C and Pagan, V (2013). 'Generating employee engagement in a public–private partnership: Management communication activities and employee experiences'. International Journal of Human Resource Management, 24(14) : 2741-2759.
  • Reissner, S C; Pagan, V and Smith, C. (2011). “‘Our iceberg is melting’: Story, metaphor and the management of organizational change”. Culture and Organization, 17 (5) : 417-433.
  • Reissner, S C (2011). “Patterns of stories of organisational change”. Journal of Organizational Change Management, 24 (5) : 593-609.
  • Reissner, S C and Du Toit, A (2011). “Power and the tale: Coaching as storyselling”. Journal of Management Development, 30 (3) : 247-259.
  • Reissner, S C (2010) “Change, meaning and identity at the workplace”. Journal of Organizational Change Management, 23 (3) : 287-299.
  • Reissner, S C (2008). Narratives of Organisational Change and Learning: Making Sense in Testing Times. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.
  • Reissner, S. C. (2005). “Learning & innovation: A narrative analysis”. Journal of Organizational Change Management, 18 (5): 482-494.
  • Reissner, S. C. (2004). “Learning by storytelling: Narratives in the study of work-based learning”. Journal of Adult and Continuing Education, 10 (2): 99-113.

About Us

Dr. Stefanie Reissner, the Principal Investigator of this research, developed an interest in narrative and storytelling during her doctoral studies at the University of Durham (2001-2004). The focus of her research into storytelling in management practice is on the factors that facilitate or hinder its effectiveness in the manager’s communication toolbox. Stefanie’s work has been presented at national and international conferences, including EGOS, BAM, EURAM, and the (formerly) ESRC-funded seminar series on Organizational Storytelling. For details about publication of Stefanie’s work, please refer to Selected Publications.

Stefanie joined Newcastle University Business School in September 2010 following lecturing positions at Sunderland Business School (2006-2010) and Bristol Business School, University of the West of England (2004-2006) and has recently been promoted to Senior Lecturer. She is a member of the ESRC Peer Review College, an Academic Associate Member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), a member of the European Group for Organization Studies (EGOS) and the British Academy of Management (BAM).

Victoria Pagan joined the project as a research assistant for this project in May 2011 on a one-year contract, following 8 years in commercial research and consultancy for the public sector, local government and non-departmental public bodies. She is studying for a PhD (which is nearing completion) and has recently been appointed as Lecturer in Strategic Management at Newcastle University Business School. Victoria is a member of the British Academy of Management, Chartered Management Institute and the Royal Anthropological Institute.

Contact

Any comments, questions and suggestions about the research are welcome. Please contact the Principal Investigator Dr Stefanie Reissner on stefanie.reissner@newcastle.ac.uk.