Follow through to support dots, spans and paths

by | Aug 10, 2014 | Blog | 0 comments

structure (1)A behavior designer I’ve been working with was beating himself and his field up for not providing really good follow through for people.

According to the behavior design field, helping someone “follow through” means you assist them in creating or finding structure to support the behavior you want them to do.

It’s often not enough to provide a good trigger to act, even if individuals already have one six ability factors that the father of behavior design, Dr. BJ Fogg, includes in his famous Fogg Behavioral Model.   (Yes, this is the same BJ Fogg behind the Tiny Habits program  for which I’m a certified coach.)

These six factors, also referred to as simplicity factors, are money, time, physical capacity, mental capacity, familiarity and social norms. They are involved not only in personal change, but also organizational change.

Consider individuals at work. Employees, especially those who are feeling stressed at work, aren’t overly receptive to doing new things.

Even though they may not be happy with the status quo, it’s easier to stick with the devil they know rather than try something new of their choosing.

And if a “change management consultant” or “change agent” comes to these overstressed and overwhelmed employees with a directive to change, that’s really unappealing.

However, if employees know others are changing, the change is not too different from other things they do, it’s relatively easy and they’ll have support along the way, they may be more receptive.

Yet, how many change management professionals do you hear talking about the detailed follow through that’s needed to support the behavior change?   

Just this week, I was reviewing the manuscript of a new change management book for a colleague. It’s all about the process of preparing for and introducing change, not about getting people to do new things or things differently and sustaining the new behavior.

Forget about putting the cart before the horse. We first need a horse or human to pull the cart and do the work! 

We can’t just crack a whip, snap our fingers or click our heels and expect people to change.  It’s not practical or efficient.

It’s time to study the dots, spans and paths that are part of the Fogg Behavior Grid

BJ Fogg, who’s devoted his lifetime to studying behavior, has identified 15 ways behavior can change.

So when you’re first considering what type of change you want people to do, you need to determine whether it’s a dot, span or path behavior, as I learned in BJ’s persuasion boot camp more than two years ago.

Dot is a one-time action, span is over a time period and path is a behavior for the unforeseen future—until the next change comes along.

For example, dot behavior would be signing up for a new program or completing a special form. Span would be participating in a kaizen. Path would be starting to use a new cloud-based application.

The persuasion strategies that you need to use are different for specific dot, span and path behaviors.  And the follow through is different too.

For example, the type of support needs to vary depending on whether you’re asking someone to participate on a task force, start coaching their employees rather than managing them or start calling on different customers to sell not just products but also services.

The support could include training, job redesign, individual coaching, peer communities of practice, accountability circles, new incentives, recognition, apps to remind and reinforce, helplines, etc.

Individual preferences may come into play too. The more you can personalize the better.

Depending on the extent of the change, you also may need to address how to reshape the culture to improve the chances of the changes taking root and growing.

Those of us who work in organizational change need to adopt the mindset and actions of behavior designers.

By using applied psychology and rapid testing, we can create systems and structure to help individuals change behavior in a positive way.

What do you think?







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