Measuring behaviours it’s child’s play!

Look a little closer, though, and here come the questions … lots of them!

  • Define your target indicators: Really? Behaviours can be measured?
  • Collect the data: How? Who collects it? Is it really reliable?
  • Compare the data: Target – data = gap. That’s seems pretty easy, right?
  • Adjust as needed: But do what? Something new? The same thing we did before? If it didn't work the first time, why should it work now?
  • Collect, compare, adjust again: Uh… how often do we have to do this?<
  • Repeat until you reach your target: I’d say we’ve reached it, wouldn’t you agree? I mean, we’re pretty darn close…

Define your target indicators

It’s tough to know when you’ve arrived if you don’t know where you’re going. I think we can all agree on that.

But take your time, and choose carefully, because it can be tricky. Remember, we are never more ingenious than when it comes to avoiding something we don't want to do.

And yes, we can even find indicators for behaviour. Say, for instance, our new objective is to finish ALL meetings on time. “Pfff, impossible!” you say. Actually, my friend, it’s not! For example, you could systematically designate a timekeeper at meetings and set up a points system, like in a game. If at the end of the week or month the team has finished [insert a figure according to your level of meetings] of meetings on time, bingo! A prize!

And above all, it’s important to bear in mind that nothing is set in stone. The indicators can evolve to adapt to new realities, or because once they are being used, it turns out they’re not that representative after all.

Collect the data

There are solutions:

  • Analysis: Extract the data and compile the numbers. Basic.
  • Self-evaluation: This involves a margin of error and requires a healthy dose of honesty, but it’s fairly simple to implement and less expensive than the third option. For instance, questionnaires, engagement surveys, focus groups, interviews...
  • Field observations: This takes time, but when it comes to behaviour, it's the most reliable approach. Simply look at what is being done and see whether it corresponds to what needs to be done (practices audit).

Compare the data

So, you compare, and … Yikes! You’re miles away from your target!

Relax, Max, don’t panic! Baby steps, small victories, one level at a time  the big boss and Princess Peach are waiting for us at the finish line.

Adjust as needed:

Well, well, well… here’s where things get interesting.

So, yes, sometimes it’s good, even necessary, to redo what we did before. Hammer it home, or, in more “corporate speak”, reinforce behaviours.

On one side we have an easy, ingrained, natural behaviour, and on the other, a new behaviour that we get nothing out of directly.

Similarly, meetings that end on time make for more productive meetings and fewer people waiting, doing nothing, in front of a room full of people.

Collect, compare, adjust again:

Be demanding. If you “more or less” achieve your objectives, you’ll “more or less” achieve your results. On large projects that often require considerable energy in addition to time and money, it would be a real shame to settle for “more or less”.

So yes, monitor those indicators, to infinity and beyond (as Buzz Lightyear would say). You MUST continue to monitor your indicators beyond the end of the project. Even once you have achieved your targets, do not hesitate to keep some relevant indicators on scorecards to ensure that there is no backslip.

Beware of old slippers: they are never very far away, and they are much more comfortable than the new ones!

Caroline Roussel
Change management consultant
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