How stories shape culture, collaboration and communication

How stories shape culture, collaboration and communication

While you may be very familiar with the kinds of stories used in Agile software development, did you know that stories in the more traditional sense can play an important role – shaping collaboration and communication for businesses, teams and projects?

Stories define and express our values

Stories are a natural and age-old way of expressing who we are and why we do what we do. In business, they enable a company to communicate its values, products and culture. What’s more, stories help to define an organisation’s values and culture in the first place. Values are stories the company creates to reinforce its work ethic and communicate what it expects from its people, as well as giving everyone focus and direction.

Collaborative working is supported and enhanced by stories

Stories act as a guide to help us figure out how to get work done together. A project manager might ask: what does success look like to us? How can we work together to achieve it?

The wording of a story can make it active or passive. Active stories such as “We are always trying to improve” are more dynamic and inspire continuous effort to reflect and pivot. If a cultural or process change is required, a new story can replace an old one. The intention is not to be revisionist about history or past mistakes but to make the process iterative, reshaping and improving working methods and outlook.

Stories help us to visualise without providing all the details

In a traditional story we are presented with a narrative world. That world might be vibrant and rich, yet the author still won’t have written down every tiny detail. Instead, they will use appropriate description to enable the reader fill in the gaps. In Agile, a manager may provide an outline for the developer which they can understand but which isn’t heavy with detail. This way the developer can infer from the information provided and the manager doesn’t need to micro-manage.

De-familiarising the familiar

Stories are very effective at helping us to see the same things from new angles. For example, once a task is performed a number of times it becomes automatic. Over time, if it becomes an ingrained habit we may even stop seeing the task or product and then find it harder to review or change if needed. So, if a different approach is required a new story can help us “wake up”. The story can offer a fresh description so we can experience a de-familiarisation and see anew.

To find out more about the role of stories check out the Adaptavist Atlassian Ecosystem Podcast with Renee Brown, Ryan Spilken and Matthew Stublefield.