Practitioners like myself often talk about highlighting the importance of behaviours being the key to a successful culture change.
Q. Five frogs are sitting on a log. Four decide to jump off. How many frogs are on the log?
A. Five, because deciding and doing are not the same thing.
I think this riddle sums the issue up perfectly and relates well to the workplace, as decisions, processes and structures designed for change do not mean that anything will change, unless behaviour also changes.
I recently read Leandro Herrero’s book Viral Change, in which he talks about behaviours being misplaced, as processes and new systems do not create sustainable behaviours. A new system or process may lead to an initial alteration in the teams’ behaviours. However in the majority of cases these behaviours are not sustained and tail off after the first excitement of interest. In his book, Leandro suggests that this process needs to be changed, and behaviours need to be at the forefront of the new processes.
Throughout my work I am seeing companies put more and more time, energy and money into creating new structures and systems within the business, yet they are failing to successfully make this change happen because they are not considering the behaviours required to ensure the new process is successful and effective.
One example of this that I have come across recently is the launch of a new Customer Relationship Management system. The business invested time, money and resources into this introduction, however results showed that once launched, only 20 per cent of staff used the system, as the team had not considered the misuse of the system and the consequences. This therefore resulted in a lack of return and no change in behaviours. The leaders within the team did not outline at the beginning what they wanted in terms of new behaviours, who would be the role models, or how they would be rewarded for adopting the new system.
So the big question is why don’t we start culture change with the desired behaviours? Although this seems obvious, there is one hurdle in the way, which is the long-held belief that behaviours are ‘soft’ actions, as opposed to ‘hard’ actions such as creating processes and structures which are easier to measure. Instead, it is important to think about behaviours as ‘hard’ actions.
Based on this, where do we start? Very simply, a small set of non-negotiable behaviours is all that is required for a real change to happen The best way for this to happen is for everyone in the team to move away from broad concepts which are easily open to interpretation, and shift towards smaller sets of specific behaviours, whether this be sharing resources with other members of the team or dividing competitor analysis with colleagues.
There are two key questions what need to be asked before effective culture change is achieved:
What is going to be different, and how will this be achieved?
When introducing new desired behaviours, it is important to think about the future, and what it will look like after this change has been adopted by the team. This forward thinking helps to define exactly what behaviours are required for this change to happen.
How are the new behaviours going to be incentivised and rewarded?
Different behaviours are likely to be triggered by a number of difference causes, but one of the main causes of this is reinforcement and reward.
Beyond directly rewarding members of the team, organisations should put emphasis on role-modelling, as this shows employees that you ‘practice what you preach’ and believe in what we say. It is my belief that line managers are the ultimate role models are some of the most important leaders in the organisation an according to LPI data (theleadershipchallenge.com), leaders’ behaviour accounts for just under 25% of how committed, motivated and productive their teams are.