Building a Culture, One Habit at a Time
I get a lot of emails and questions about culture change. I even get it directly: “how do you change culture?” Email isn’t quite sufficient for such a question, and either is a blog post. But we can peel back the layers of the cultural onion, one later at a time.
Habits are a little-appreciated aspect of culture. Culture is ultimately the shared behaviors that an organization exhibits. And a habit is nothing more than a behavior that is automatic and internalized.
Habits form through repeated practice of the desired behavior. But people often leave culture change to a one-touch training approach. You need to force yourself, or others, into the behavior frequently enough until it is automatic. If you want to develop a habit of flossing every night, you need to tape the floss container to the toothpaste tube so you can’t miss it. If you want to develop a habit of getting to meetings on time, you need to set alarms 10 minutes before that you can’t miss.
John Hunter of the Curious Cat blog continues on habits by describing how you might evaluate when something becomes a habit:
1) when people bring â€œworkâ€ ideas to their personal life
2) you find yourself in a new environment where the habit is not practiced and you are uncomfortable. You go to a new organization and 5s is not being practiced and you feel uncomfortable. You go to meetings without agendas and they seem to wander and waste time and you canâ€™t imagine why they donâ€™t use an agenda and follow it.
So what habits might you begin to develop to improve yourself:
- Spend more time focusing on priorities instead of getting distracted by the next email that came in
- Spend 5 minutes every day in reflection looking at how the day went
- Hold a 1:1 with direct reports weekly
- Schedule your priorities for the week and day
- Or maybe something more dramatic, like quitting smoking
What habit can you develop? How can you force it?