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: understanding the contexts, social norms and the situational triggers for the behaviour we want to change and addressing these where possible, leaves fewer decisions and choices to be made at the individual level. This is particularly true when the change desired is organization-wide: a more inclusive environment; more attention paid to safety; a greater willingness to speak up about stress.
Think of it like embarking on a diet but leaving the wine in the fridge, the biscuits next to the kettle and continuing to walk into your favourite coffee shop on the way to work. Every time you open the fridge door, make a cup of tea and walk past the croissant tray, 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. Relying on good intentions and willpower mean the change will take longer, feel harder and you are less likely to be successful.
The new change model is one which starts with understanding the environments and situations in which people are living and working every day and how these need to look different. It identifies all the changes that can be made at the systemic level to reduce the amount of conscious change demanded at the individual level. For example, a recent field experiment of diversity training in a large international organization showed that while this type of intervention may change some attitudes, it does not change behaviour. Behavioural change requires changing policies, designing processes that easier to follow and tools that are easier to use and making the environment day-to-day different.
In addition, if change is sought at a business unit or organizational level, the senior executive team must reflect on their own actions and acknowledge where these need to be visibly different. This starts to establish the new norms and speeds up the process of change.