Interview behavior changes that stick

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Interview behavior changes that stick

  1. 1. Behavior ChangesThat Stick:An Interview with Viv Priceand David Robertson
  2. 2. Behavior Changes That Stick “Behavior Changes That Stick” is Forum’s most frequently downloaded point of view paper of 2010. In this condensed interview, Viv Price and David Robertson, Forum executive consultants and authors of the paper, expand on the paper’s systemic framework to help leaders sustain behavior change. They also discuss the stumbling blocks to sustaining David Robertson change and the specific ways our clients have Viv Price overcome those challenges.Forum: What trends are you seeing in organizations that make this point of view sopopular?Robertson: The psychological contract is changing. “Learning is theirThe new generation is not expecting a job for life or a currency. So, I thinklong length of service. They want to develop in their sustainment, especiallycareer. So, they’re looking for a real learning that theycan apply and be able to talk about real results that for the newer workthey’ve achieved. Learning is their currency. So, I think forces, is a very bigsustainment, especially for the newer work forces, is a issue.”very big issue.Price: I think a couple of fairly recent business books (Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell andTalent Is Overrated by Geoff Colvin) have emphasized that to be a great performer youneed to make a disciplined and sustained effort: it’s helped bring more realism to what ittakes to change behavior.People realize that however great a learning event, e-learning experience, or simulationis, it’s not going to translate into behavior straightaway.Our paper gave people a framework to categorize some ways to help people apply whatthey’ve learned in formal learning events back on the job.Forum: How about the role of new media? “Technology hasPrice: Technology has enabled us to move to more bite- enabled us to movesized learning. Our virtual instructor-led trainings (VILTs) to more bite-sizedfocus on skills or processes that can immediately beapplied on the job. These VILTs are usually two or three in learning.”a series, so there’s built-in accountability because at thebeginning of each session there’s time built in to share what they did, they hear from theirpeers, and then they pick up something else.These small bites help make the learning stick, because there’s this immediatereinforcement from others on what they’ve done and how it’s worked. We’re giving themsmall pieces that they can apply back on the job. It’s really been a wonderful shift inlearning. 2
  3. 3. Forum: Let’s shift now from the trends in organizations to our sustainment approach andframework. What is new about our approach?Robertson: Sustainment as an idea has really been the elephant in the room for as longas I’ve been working in the profession, which is nearly 35 years now. Everyone hasknown the real value of sustaining and reinforcing the investment in learning.So, the concept isn’t that new. What is new is the focus “The concept isn’t thaton the different levels of ownership for sustainment new. What is new is theactivities. We are helping L and D professionals thinkthrough and be intentional about what sustainment focus on the differentthe organization can be responsible for, what the line levels of ownership formanager can be responsible for, and what the individual sustainment activities.”learner can be responsible for.Price: I’d add that the right level of ownership is dependent on the organizationalculture. For all of us, applying what you learned can constitute a big risk. And in someorganizations, there’s a lot of control and regulation, and people are discouraged fromtaking any risks. In those cases, leaving the sustainment activities to the individuallearner can be problematic. We’d recommend the ownership for learning sustainment inthese organizations should be with the manager of the learner and with the organizationas a whole to make it safe to try out new skills and tools on the job.In other organizations, the ownership for sustainment can be left to the individual learner.These are the organizations where risk taking is part of the organizational culture, and sopeople feel okay about experimenting with new skills back on the job.Forum: Can you share an example of how you’ve seen this play out in a client setting?Robertson: Recently, we did some work with a number of organizations who weredeveloping the responsibility for safety across the organization. Over the years, theyhad tried many different approaches, but always the sustainment of that capability,knowledge, and standards seemed to drift back somehow to one manager: the safetymanager.Then they began pushing that back from the safety manager to the actual individual.Safety—and applying the learning on safety—became the responsibility for the individual.What they didn’t want was for responsibility and ownership issues to come back to thesafety manager. They wanted to make sure that ownership for application of safetylearning is owned across the business, as well as at the line-manager level, and at theindividual level. Then the safety manager can go back to being a subject matter expert inthe business, and consult and support.So it is different, depending on their particular needs. Often, just the idea of the threedifferent levels and getting engaged around these levels is the big “aha moment” at thestart.Forum: How about the opposite? Where have we seen clients struggle withsustainment? 3
  4. 4. Behavior Changes That StickRobertson: People confuse the extra level of ownership and the different sustainmentcategories with the need to find budget to do follow-through activities.In actual fact, the smart money—what you should do—is to think about it at the designstage. You can create the experience that already has that sustainment built into it,rather than the standard 2-day experience that takes people away and immerses them.Forum: What’s another stumbling block that you’ve seen, and how do we help clientsovercome that stumbling block?Price: I remember a conversation with a head of sales, a few months after a significantrollout of some work on developing a branded way of selling. He asked, “So how longbefore I see results from this?” And the answer was 18 months: “You’ll see someglimmers, but you won’t get it sustained until 18 months.” “ ... the smart money—The answer was shocking to him initially. Then, as what you should do—isthe truth sank in, he realized that there needed to be a to think about it at thecontinuing focus on the new brand of sales behaviors to design stage.”help people stick with trying new skills out and gettingproficient, then becoming an expert. He kept a long-termfocus on the new brand behaviors, and it paid off because people realized they wereexpected to keep focusing on applying what they’d learned.Forum: In “Behavior Changes That Stick,” you advocate choosing the right sustainmentactivities based on assessment of learning environment and ownership levels. The foursustainment activities are the See It, Need It, Do It, Live It framework. Has anythingsurprised you as you’ve seen clients start to work with that framework?Price: If you look at those four activities—See It, Need It, Do It, Live It—the one thatlearning organizations have traditionally been great at using is the “Need It.” We’ll givepeople an assessment and show them a gap and indicate where they’re strong and say,“Here are the areas where you can develop, and here’s where you can improve on yourstrengths.”A surprise to me is that often the “See It” sustainment activities are difficult to come byas part of the normal routine of work. In these situations there are no role models of whatgood looks like. Say I’d just learned about change management skills, and there was noone who was a model of how to manage change effectively in my organization. In thatsituation, I can’t see it easily and so it won’t stick for me. When we have situations likethis we have to source examples or stories from other organizations.With “Live It” (recognizing and sharing what you’ve done), I think the Web 2.0 tools aregreat enablers. So, for example, you can immediately share what you’ve learned or theresults you’ve seen from trying out a new process or skill in a Yammer or Twitter posting.For colleagues, reading about the successes of others can act as a spur to try out thenew process or skill. So I think the social media available now to “Live It” has had a bigimpact on uptake.Forum: Any last thoughts on why this approach is differentiated?Price: The framework helps you choose sustainment activities that fit your organization’slearning environment. L and D groups can choose and target the right sustainmentactivities and identify the right level in the organization to own and drive these activities. 4
  5. 5. Forum is a global professional services firm that mobilizespeople to embrace the critical strategies of their organizationand accelerate results. We help senior leaders with urgentstrategic agendas equip their organizations to perform,change, and grow. Our expertise is built on decades oforiginal research; our business insight keeps companiesout ahead of their markets, competitors, and customers.Harvard Business Press published Forum’s latest bookStrategic Speed in 2010.For more information, visit www.forum.com.© 2010 IIR Holdings, Ltd. All Rights Reserved. 5

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