I have been fascinated that it has been confirmed this week that the remains of King Richard the Third have been found, 500 years after his death in the battle of Bosworth, under a car park in Leicester. (I also liked the comment of someone who questioned why he had been buried under a car park!) It seems that history has not been kind to King Richard portraying him as a deformed psychopath, best known for killing his two young nephews. But listening to historians talk about him you realise that there are often two sides to a story and yet only one side prevails. How true is this also in our organisations today?

Philippa Langley of the Richard III Society gives a more positive spin on Richard saying “This is the king who gave us the system of bail, opened up the printing industry giving us books and freedom of information, and also applied the legal principle of innocent until proven guilty. And yet he is still presumed guilty for the death of the princes in the tower even though there’s no evidence pointing towards him killing them.”

History is always written from someone’s own point of view. Winston Churchill famously said “History will be kind to me for I intend to write it” and I was interested when I visited Vietnam to find no mention of the ‘Vietnam War’; however there were many memorials, museums and artefacts relating to the ‘American War’. History depends on the viewpoint of the historian.

Managers are often confronted with ‘historical facts’ and they may need to ask ‘who says so? ‘What is their agenda?’ ‘What is the other side to this story?’

Julian Barnes, in the Booker prize winning novel ‘A sense of an ending’, says “History is that certainty produced at the point where the imperfections of memory meet the inadequacies of documentation.” In Richard III’s case, for example, it is Shakespeare’s imagery of him that is most usually remembered.  In many organisations in order to enable change managers need to challenge the ‘historical facts’ about their organisation, their competitive position, their market, their staff, their skills, etc. Only be equipping managers with the interpersonal skills and emotional intelligence to be open-minded, skilled at asking questions and play devil’s advocate at times can ‘historical facts’ be challenged in order to facilitate change.