Multiple Metaphor Model


One the major problems with existing strategic change strategies is that they present change as a step by step sequential process. We would agree that some things suit such a rational or scientific approach towards the change process. It is our contention, however, that change in education is far too complex to be captured by the traditional linear mode. By reflecting upon the elements of successful change experiences in education and linking this with the notion of systems thinking we have developed the multiple metaphor model.

Metaphors are useful for providing people with a mental model of a process. However, a metaphor's greatest strength i.e. its simplicity, can also be its downfall - as a single metaphor can never cover all of the aspects of a complex process. This tension leads to us trying to extend a metaphor or add bits to it to cover the reality people face. The other problem with metaphors is the fact that people's experience of the metaphor being used can colour distort the intended model.

Despite these concern about the use of metaphors - and the English teachers' abhorrence of the notion of mixed metaphors - we propose that our model has much to commend it as means of capturing the the cultural context within which various elements of change process can take place in a connected manner. Throughout human history metaphors have been recognised as a way in which to tell stories with much deeper and more significant meaning in a manner which people can readily recall. The multiple metaphor model therefore has the added benefit of providing people with a picture of the organisation which is both portable and transferable.

Our Multiple Metaphor Model consists of seven metaphors. There is significant overlap between each of the metaphors but considered collectively they cover all of the cultural elements of the change process.

Our Metaphors are:

Sculpting; Inventing; House Building; Child Rearing; Gardening; Hill Walking; and Belonging

Cultural Change Strategy