Behavior change made simple.
If you understand that your organization’s culture is best defined as the behavior of your people, then it becomes clear that creating culture change is really just about creating behavior change.
Repetition is key
If we want to learn anything so deeply and so completely that we’ve internalized that knowledge, we all know that the key is tremendous amounts of practice or repetition. This is as true for learning a language as it is for a sport or a dance or riding a unicycle or learning anatomy. The more we practice over and over again, the more the knowledge or skill becomes second nature to us. It becomes internalized. In Malcolm Gladwell’s bestseller, Outliers: The Story of Success, his research indicates that it takes approximately 10,000 hours of practice to achieve mastery. Who knows if that’s the right number, but the point is clear. Only through tremendous repetition do we own the material.
But here’s the problem: How many of us love to do repetition? As a matter of fact, very few of us do. Most of us get bored easily. We have short attention spans. We struggle with discipline. How many gyms are filled to capacity on January 2nd, packed with people determined to keep their New Year’s resolution to get fit this year? And by mid-February, the vast majority of those people are no longer going to the gym. It’s just not in our nature to be good at sticking with things.
But if we know that mastery requires repetition, what’s the key to being able to stick with things long enough to do that necessary repetition? The key to repetition is ritual (or habit, which is another word for ritual). (See Rituals: The Key to Making it Last). Rituals are the platform or the structure or the foundation that enable us to do repetition. When something becomes a habit or a ritual, doing it is no longer dependent on our own fleeting motivation or discipline. Instead, it becomes practically automatic. It’s just what we do.
So here’s the key understanding: Rituals are what are necessary to do the repetition and the repetition is what’s necessary for internalization.
Repetition requires ritual
If we want our employees to internalize the behavior that lead to success (that is, our culture), they’re not going to do it simply because we had a big meeting and announced our core values. They’re not going to do it because we made them sign it and put it on our wall. They’re not going to do it because we put it in their performance review.
No, the only way they’re going to internalize our culture is when we teach it over and over and over again. And the only way we’ll ever do that with enough repetition is when we create rituals around the teaching and practice of the behaviors we want to see internalized.
We’ve worked with companies all over the country helping them to create these rituals, helping them to institutionalize their cultures. If you’d like to know more about how to do it, let’s talk.
Next topic: The biggest roadblock to action.