what we think
Change is hard. It takes at least 18 days for us to develop one new habit of our own choice. In one study, some had not managed to create a new habit after more than six months of trying.
Creating the right environment makes a big difference. Think of it like embarking on a diet but leaving the wine in the fridge and the biscuits next to the kettle. Every time you open the fridge door or make a cup of tea, temptation is staring you in the face and you have to make a conscious choice to say no. When you are tired, hungry, bored or distracted, your chances of resisting temptation are very low. Meeting your friends in a coffee shop that has an in-house bakery is also unlikely to help. It is harder to say no to a cake when you can smell the fresh bread and everyone else is having one. If you ignore the part that these factors play in your choices and rely on good intentions and willpower, any change will take longer, feel harder and will be less likely to end in success.
Organisations often fail to pay attention to the situational triggers for the behaviour they want to change. Faced with cultural problems like harassment or lack of diversity, the answer is often revised policies and a new training module. It is easy to understand why. Budgets can be allocated, content can be developed and implemented quickly and a signal is sent that action has been taken. But are the results delivered? Probably not. Take a recent, oft-touted, solution to increasing workforce diversity: unconscious bias training. Study after study has now shown that, on its own, this has no little to no effect on behaviour. If leadership teams rely on training, they are likely to lose time, money and credibility.
We believe the key is understanding the real barriers to change and finding ways to address them. If you have had a problem with harassment and there is also a lot of after-work drinking, perhaps the place to start is changing the organisational relationship with alcohol. You could try cutting the alcohol budget at post-work events and making it easier to find and book activities which don't involve drinking. If you are struggling to get better take-up of paternity leave, perhaps it needs to be easier to find and fill in the forms; or perhaps you need to think about how to make this feel like a lower-risk thing to do. Our experience means we know where to look and the sorts of things that could work but the detailed solution will always be organisation-specific because every organisation is different.