Organization hero stories, the ones you tell as you launch your change initiative, will get people on your change bus. How you tell the story is as important as the story you create.

Organization Hero Stories - what are they?

Organizations have heroes. They’re featured in the organization’s oral history. The hero arrives just in time to save the organization from a pending disaster. What doesn’t get resolved is the underlying systemic problem that creates the potential disaster. We reward and celebrate the organization hero for saving the day. This, in turn, makes it attractive for future heroes. The cycle unintentionally sustains underlying systemic problems.

organizaiton chage success stories

Organization Change Success Stories


The organization hero story goes like this:

Remember that software issue at the customer site that none of us knew how to address? Then Andrea comes along and within 5 minutes it’s won and done. Don’t know what we’d do without gurus like her.

Andrea, and heroes who follow in her footsteps, are publicly praised and celebrated. No one suggests discovering and addressing the underlying problems, thereby eliminating the hero’s role.


A new leader comes along. She discovers people spend 60% of their time solving individual customer problems. It’s a one to one solution, not scale-able, costly, and inefficient. Only 40% of people’s time is spent improving product support on the front end (user friendly manuals, training, demonstrations) to prevent hero-inducing problems. The leader declares a new goal. In 18 months people will dedicate 70% of their time to problem prevention.

She and I discuss obstacles to achieving this goal. The organization hero story is first on her list. So we walk through the elements of creating, telling and rewarding a new hero story.

  • The story features a hero facing the dilemma your people will encounter
    • Should I save the day and/or prevent the day from occurring again?
  • The hero is about to revert to the old way, but recalls the one to many benefits and makes the right decision
  • Picture her feeling excited about her contribution to the new way
  • Show how she’s celebrated for being a new hero

When you tell the story, pull people in so they see themselves as the protagonist. Speak directly to each person.

  • “Remember the last time you were called to a customer site to resolve a one-off problem?”
  • Populate the story with a real example of a real customer and a real employee.
  • Ask people to imagine themselves doing what the new hero would do.
    • Describe the tension between the two choices, along with the heroes:
      • Thoughts
      • Actions
      • Feelings
      • Joy at being celebrated and rewarded for being the new kind of hero

Encouraging and Rewarding New Heroes

Each month peers and managers nominate new heroes. Monthly winners are publicly celebrated. They receive new hero emblems. In this case the reward features a Smokey the Bear type character who prevents bad outcomes. Make it fun and a big deal. We decide the Smokey t-shirt will be shot into the crowd, the way it’s done at basketball games. The catcher gets the honor of delivering the winner’s prize. Everyone participates in creating a new organization hero.




Anne Perschel
Anne Perschel

When she is not consulting; coaching; reading and writing about leadership; or enjoying her work in other ways; Anne can be found:

Listening to ocean waves receding over stones.

Enjoying the spontaneous expressions of young children who haven’t yet learned to hide their emotions.

Taking in the scent of freesias, lilacs or salt water.

Enjoying the great, or not so great, outdoors and all variations of nature’s gifts.

At the gym.

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Create New Organization Hero Stories to Lead Change