Using metaphor in designing training activities to support large-scale organizational change efforts : a case study
This study examines the efficacy of using metaphor in instructional training sessions as a way of tapping into participants’ perceptions of an organization’s existing cultural climate. Specifically, this study describes how two training sessions (one for managerial and one for nonmanagerial personnel) conducted at a Fortune 100 healthcare corporation used metaphor-based activities to help participants express verbally and pictorially (through their drawings) their conceptions of the organization and its leadership. The study concentrates on inductive qualitative methods, including content analysis and semiotic analysis, as a multimethodological approach to studying meaning. The qualitative, rapid ethnographic approach was used to study the signs in texts to articulate the meaning of leadership within a given context. In this study, the goal was to look for the descriptions of meaning presented by the participants, particularly the meanings that are often taken for granted or that are used to explain others’ understandings. In order to depict the meaning of leadership, content and semiotic techniques were used for studying the sign systems used in a training activity and for studying how the participants interpreted their meaning and engaged in sense-making. Although much of the findings of the two groups were similar, there were some differences in their perceptions of the organization and its leadership, differences that seem attributable to the makeup of the two groups. The study provides the results of the two groups’ perceptions and meanings as they relate to leadership. The study concludes by uncovering their shared meanings and suggests how these meanings can be used to lay the groundwork for loftier initiatives such as large-scale organizational change efforts and leadership development.