Using Organizational Stories for the Diagnostic Phase of Planned Change: Some Possibilities and Precautions

Document Type


Publication Date



Storytelling has often been presented as one way of assessing the subjective, hard-to-measure variables that affect organizational success such as corporate culture and group norms. The content of organizational stories, however, can provide valuable information concerning both the informal and formal organization. As such, stories can be used much more broadly-and practically-than has been reported previously. In particular, during the diagnostic phase of planned change, stories can be gathered via individual interviews, group interviews, structured questionnaires, observation, unobtrusive methods, and story creation. Moreover, stories gathered by these methods-especially when coupled with other forms of diagnostic information-may result in a deeper understanding of the organization's problems and opportunities that subsequently can be addressed by a program of planned change. This article discusses the strengths and weaknesses of different methods for collecting story data, considers how stories can be interpreted and presented to the organization, and offers several precautions for using story data during an organizational diagnosis.