A Discussion on Behaviour Change

By Guy Osmond on 5th Apr 2011

I have been discussing behaviour change a lot recently.  Initially, this was because of two new products aiming to bring about behaviour change in the workplace.

The new products are CtrlWORK personal efficiency software and the Back-Track manual handling tool.  Back-Track has an obvious and rapid impact on behaviour.  It’s one of my favourite new products because it’s simple, obvious and effective.  It also produces really effective management data.  CtrlWORK is a much slower-burn product but I am confident of great results in time.  It has already been well-received by over 250,000 users in the Netherlands and initial U.S. feedback is exciting.

These conversations got me interested in the whole concept of behaviour change and I decided to find out a little more about the process.  I don’t claim to be any sort of expert but my brief research has given me some valuable insights.

A good starting point is The Stages of Change Model (SCM), developed over 30 years ago by James Prochaska and Carlo DiClimente when they were researching smoking habits and addiction.  Interestingly, a Google search for Behaviour Change produces many pages which are drug-, alcohol- or other dependency-related.  The whole concept recognises that change is not a single continuum but a series of separate stages with different issues and tasks to be faced by the individual.  That individual  must decide for him/herself when a stage is completed and when it’s time to move on.  The fundamental concept is that such change can not be imposed: it has to come from within.  These are the stages.

  • Pre-contemplation – “ignorance is bliss”, not aware of a problem
  • Contemplation – ambivalent about change, no imminent plans for action
  • Preparation – starting to try to change, “testing the waters”
  • Action – practicing new behaviour
  • Maintenance – continued commitment to sustained new behaviour
  • Relapse – “fall from grace”, resumption of old habits

Behaviour change

Significantly, they can be applied just as readily to moving towards a more environmentally sustainable lifestyle, creating a better work-life balance, improving time management and more.  Indeed, the comprehensive information I found at the U.S. addictioninfo.org site included this diagram (which I have also now borrowed) from Katherine Lee’s System Concepts article at http://bit.ly/oglscm which explores organisational readiness to change.

So, we are right back to ergonomics and human factors!

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