Opportunities lost or created?

I’ve just finished reading ‘The Behaviour Change Wheel’, by Susan Michie, Lou Atkins and Robert West.

The book is a guide for designing behaviour change interventions for public policy (2014 Silverback Publishing).

At the heart of the model, the authors discuss the sources of behaviour and therefore the prerequisites for change.

Does the individual or group have the physical and/or psychological skills for the change?

Does the individual or group have the immediate or latent level of motivation to make the change?

Does the individual or group have the physical or social opportunity to make the change? In a way, does the environment support the change or block it?  

This latter element made me think that so often in cultural or organisational changes we don’t spend anywhere near enough time thinking about creating the opportunity or environment for change.  

For example, an organisation recently wanted to introduce ‘smart working’ in their organisation, to create a hot desk environment, to optimise space and create more flexible working practices. Their solution was to reduce the desk numbers in the organisation by half. Not all employees were mobile, so those who weren’t mobile simply arrived an hour earlier at work to get a desk. Those who were mobile, then could arrive at a base and not have a desk or mobile space. Smart working was not supported by the desk reduction. The opportunity was not provided and it did support desk warfare, which was obviously not the intention.

When thinking about making such working practice changes, make sure that the environment supports the change and does not mitigate against it (so if you want a smart working environment, create different types of spaces - don’t just reduce it).

Avoid a ‘one size fits all’ approach. Smart working for some could be home-working. For others, a desk in an office. For others, hot desks.

Think about the unintended consequences of your interventions.

Be creative about creating the opportunity for change - although perhaps the simplest, it can be one of the most impactful.