Friday, December 24, 2010

We need to change some behaviours!

Recently I've spoken to a few people who have told me "What we need here are some changes in behaviour", then they let me know what they will do to make these changes come about. It may be a new policy, or some kind of punishment/stick combination, it will certainly involve microsoft power point, but what ever the mechanism I would be amazed if it has the desired result.

Changing behaviour is rather difficult, and using a single device to achieve change will fail (maybe drugs or extreme violence would be the exception to this rule). This is because there are multiple factors that create behaviours, and a change to just one of these will not have much, if any, impact on the others.

The model below is by Edgerton & Palmer and is an attempt to show the interactions involved between five factors that have an effect on an individual. Actions (behaviors) is only part of the story here.

Social context - the where, what and when of the situation. The working environment is a constantly changing social context, from sitting at a desk and working alone to being in a formal meeting with colleagues to having an informal chat when making some coffee. As the other factors are effected by this they are also in flux.

Cognition - the thoughts of the individual will be as varied as the individuals. In different contexts and with different people these will also vary. In a situation where there are project managers playing a game of schedule chicken the thoughts will be a mix ways to defend their current plans to demonstrating the faults in their peer's plan - of course this would only happen in theory as all PMs are on the one team to deliver the best result for their organisation.

Emotion - apart from the emotions someone brings in the door to work, emotions will also be affected by many other factors. A chat with non-competitive peers will give more pleasant emotions than being in a performance review. Emotional responses are essentially responses to the other factors, but once fired up can create feedback into these factors.

Physiology - sleep and diet are pretty reasonable places to start when considering this factor (lots of over time and pizza will cause issues), but there are many other elements to physiology that may occur by situations at work. A stressful and aggressive exchange will create a physiological effect which may then create specific actions in response to this - heart rate up, adrenaline flowing.

Action - the thing we want to change, which is going to be a piece of cake when we consider the other factors.

All these factors can play on and build on each other, hence the double headed arrows.

Changing behaviours is not going to occur through power point, it will just add to the frustration of the person/people who created the power point presentation - probably making them angry, and they will then start raising their voices and being aggressive in meetings, finding their heart rate has increased and getting red faced, and thinking "why doesn't anyone listen to my perfect idea, they're all morons".

Edgerton, N. and S. Palmer (2005). "SPACE: A psychological model for use within cognitive behavioural coaching, therapy and stress management." The Coaching Psychologist 1(2): 25 -31.

1 comment:

Jason Yip said...

Are you familiar with the Six Sources of Influence model?