Change Implementation Techniques for Laying a Foundation for New Ways

Technique 1.25 History Map

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The objective of this exercise is to create a shared understanding of circumstances and forces in a change initiative. It involves reconstructing the "jigsaw puzzle" of historical knowledge held by staff or constructing group memory, by arranging the major impacts in chronologic order to help understand the sequence of events and linkages.

Every change initiative has a history. This history can be marked out across months or years so that everyone can see the chronology from the project's beginning to the present‐day. People with first‐hand knowledge should be able to answer these questions

1 How did this problem or project begin?

As each person speaks, record the events being described by using self‐sticking notes and posting them on the time line. Move the notes if required, and, if possible, include sketches and diagrams as they can also be very effective.

2 What was it like at the beginning? What was the original purpose? Who started it? What did the founders envision it would produce?

3 What happened next? Whose idea was that? What was the intended purpose?

Keep moving forward through time, adding new episodes and events to the sequence. You may want to draw lines on the time line, showing the trajectories of particular problems, people, team, or projects. You may even want to call in other people who can provide missing parts on the story.

Before long, you will uncover aspects of the original purpose that were lost somewhere.

The history mapping is like investigative reporting, and after this exercise, the group will have a keener sense of their common purpose.

As a result, people will ask:

Have we fulfilled our original purpose?

What should be our purpose now?

(source: Peter Senge et al, 1999)

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