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Causing a Crisis to alter behavior February 11, 2009

Posted by Darth Sidious in Managing Employees.
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Back in 2007 we posted research that showed that not even the possiblity of death was enough to change people’s behaviors. Most humanoids are weak minded, they hate change, and love staying within their comfort zone. But the reality is that you can never just coast along for long, change is inevitable, so you either get on board with it or you die.

As a manager you don’t want your business to die, and you don’t want people to lose their jobs. The key to managing people is to recognize that there is no one size fits all solution, you have to personalize your approach with each individual – what works for one person may not work for another.

So in your manager’s toolkit you may have tried various reward mechanisms, recognition, compensation, ownership, etc.. You may have tried to subtly point out that jobs are at stake – but people may have assumed that their particular position is safe because they’re working hard, so it’ll probably be someone else.

Here’s something different to try – create a crisis on purpose to see if it causes people to change. It takes 20-45 days to modify behavior, so with a bit of luck, perhaps a good jolt will cause people to adapt. It’s a little bit risky because you’re taking a calculated risk by exposing the business to the consequence of instability, so you’ll want to plan it out and identify what indicators you’re going to measure to know when to pull the plug on your crisis experiment.

If people aren’t filling the need, and things are functioning, how is it that the crisis doesn’t occur normally? Probably because you’re having to jump in and constantly handle the burning ambers yourself before they blaze out of control. But you can’t grow an organization if you’re having to burn up your time dealing with these little things while the team itself isn’t growing.

So what kind of crisis’s can you incur? If you run a support team, how about you stop jumping in to save the day whenever the team isn’t picking up the slack? Let them get overloaded, throw out suggestions, but see if they’re able to adapt. Or if a deadline is coming up on a project and normally you would jump in to save the day… don’t save it. Or if an automated alert indicates an important system is out of disc space and no one responds because you’ve conditioned them to subconsciously knowing that it magically gets taken care of… let it go unresolved.

You need to be creative with this one, but this is just one of many things you can try to alter team or individual behavior. Good luck!

Darth Sidious

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