Better ways of working are often squashed because of engrained behaviours
I was facilitating a leadership conference of a leading European plastics business. We were exploring how they might lead a new health and safety program. A delegate asked me how long it normally took to change behaviours across a business. I clicked my fingers. That was how quickly change can happen I declared. If everyone in the room chose the better way of working from that moment on, then a new culture would be created in an instant. They left, and did little. Old habits, behaviours, and mindset were ingrained. To make the necessary changes to the way they managed their team and led their organization was too hard. Nothing anyone could do was powerful enough to break their patterns of behaviours.
Long standing hospital bed blocking issues solved in days
Covid-19 has changed the planet in a matter of weeks. Hospitals previously full of extremely sick patients have been emptied to create beds for Covid-19 cases. Bed blocking was cleared through changes to hospitalized patients care pathways. New ways of working were rapidly found because everyone was focused on achieving greater hospital capacity.
Covid-19 is the pattern break many businesses have been craving. This is the time for thinking things better. Why go back to running projects with their long-standing baggage when you know there are better ways of working?
The pain of quitting old habits
I work from my home now our office is closed. My desk overlooks our garden. I am struck by the feeding timetable our garden birds stick to throughout the day. The same creatures arrive regularly at the same time. Just like we humans they are creatures of habit.
Habits are formed as a survival technique. They free our brain from making too many decisions. This is why we become emotionally attached to them.
Change is perceived as a risk.
How often have we heard, ‘This is the way we do things around here?’ A maxim to keep us safe. Everyone knows their role. There is certainty. We will protect these ways because to change our behaviours, attitudes, and mindsets is risky.
Breaking patterns of behaviour is so hard because it’s uncomfortable.
Ask anyone at Weight Watchers, Alcoholics Anonymous, or who has a 2-year-old child who wakes at 5 in the morning, how easy it is to change behaviours. Just try folding your arms in your usual then doing the same with the other arm on top. It is uncomfortable.
People naturally resist change.
In an organisation change in behaviours affects status, undermines power, and threatens egos. Any change will be uncomfortable and will be resisted.
I was CEO of an organization. We needed to reorganize the offices which meant everyone changing desks. We were in the Sunday Times list of the Top 100 Businesses to Work For. We treated our colleagues well. After 3 months of discussion, consultation and involving everyone NOTHING had been achieved. It was the only time in my career I pulled rank. I stood in the middle of the room pointed to each individual and then to their new desk. They had 1 hour to move. Breaking emotionally engrained behaviours in an organisation takes massive energy and is a risk.
Covid-19 created the pattern break. Now it’s your, once in a lifetime opportunity. to think habits better.
Identify the habits useful to you program and those you should stop doing because they add nothing or even hinder progress.