Guest Post: Use forced habits to change behaviors
Mark’s note: Today’s post is by an old friend of mine and this blog, Jamie Flinchbaugh. This post is a preview of the free webinar that Jamie will be doing next Tuesday, hosted by me and KaiNexus. We hope you can join us.
Tools are not enough to be successful. They have to be supported by the right behaviors. This is something that I learned early in my Lean journey, and have made efforts to solve this challenge ever since.
That challenge is hardly solved, but we’ve made a lot of progress. Changing behavior requires deliberate action. Most leaders try one thing, find it doesn’t work, try one more thing, still no change, try one more thing. But our old behaviors, and the beliefs that support them, are not a product one action but of many over time. One action is not going to change them again. So we need a series of deliberate actions, put together as a strategy, to drive certain behaviors.
Next Tuesday, I will be doing a webinar about how to develop a practical strategies for behavior change on behalf of KaiNexus next week. But for starters, let me describe one useful tactic in such a strategy: the forced habit.
The Forced Habit
Because Lean is empowering and engaging, we think that everyone should just decide to do Lean. But forcing a habit until it becomes an internalized belief is a very useful tool in achieving this outcome.
Consider an example. One organization I was working with was trying to encourage people to work on small and rapid improvements. They were taught how. They were encouraged. They had incentives. And they even wanted to. But they were stuck. Nothing was happening.
Until we forced it. We required one change every two weeks.
They had an idea. “Can you get it done in two weeks?”
“Then how can you make it smaller?”
This continued over and over until they got down to an idea that they could get done in two weeks. Then we forced a second, and a third, and more. Until they just started going on their own.
They couldn’t get out of the starting gates on their own. They had to be forced. But once they were, they found not only that it wasn’t that scary, but they learned how to do it. And they started doing it.
There is nothing wrong with forcing the change. It’s not a sustainable way to keep a change. But, it is a means to get people to experience it. And that experience is part of changing behavior permanently.