There are many ways to introduce, trigger and spread behaviours in organizations, but not many of them are effective and sustainable. Triggering behaviours is the easy bit. Everybody can do it. We, human beings, are doing it al the time. Spread them is a bit more difficult, but still doable. Making it sustainable, this is just another matter. Not many approaches do the trick. In Viral ChangeÔ we succeed all the time due to the bottom-up and peer-to-peer methodology that we use.
But sometimes mangers wish there was a way to inject a behaviour, create a habit, or, more frequently, deal with difficult behaviours that have a hard time to get embedded in the culture
One good example is in the difficulties that many managers encounter in giving performance feed back. And most of the time, when people say this, they refer to difficult conversations and difficult or negative feed back. It is very frequent to hear, ‘perhaps we are too nice’, or ‘we don’t dare’, or ‘it just does not happen’, ‘it is not in our DNA’. IT becomes a self fulfilling prophecy and the issue, an important one.
I suggest that it may be good to try to get there by the back door. This is the back door. Imagine that you create a rule that every single meeting has to end by soliciting feed back form each of the participants. Noting dramatic, even a score of satisfaction 1 to 10. Most people, most organizations, have an agenda for meetings. Include a few minutes feed back session. As a rule. If you have the discipline of an agenda, you won’t have much difficulty within the discipline of giving feed back at the end. It may start as a simple feed back, it may evolve to a more sophisticated feed back from person to person. It does not matter.
After a while, this will become normal. How many meetings per day do you have in the organization? Dozens? Hundreds? Imagine all of them ‘practice feed back’!
Of course, I am not talking about the same feed back as above, the difficult performance management conversations. Instead of focusing, sometimes with high energy, on ‘training everybody to give (performance) feed back’, and getting nowhere, you make feed back ‘normal’ in easier and less ‘threatening’ situations, such as then end of meeting. You will end up making feed back easier in general, period. In the meetings and outside meetings. The taboo may disappear. After all, ‘practising giving feed back’ will be already happening in possible massive numbers.
That is the back door. Find something that facilitates the behaviour somewhere, different from the area of problem. Multiply, create a critical mass (norm, habit), and that will infect other areas. It’s a praxis, a habit, a practice, something people do, versus, a process, a mountain, a difficult one.