Not Everyone Wants to Be Agile: The Art of Microhabits

Consultants often focus their business transformations on the following three premises:

  1. All employees want to acquire knowledge so they can lead others.
  2. People want to work in self-organized teams, because this helps them learn and is good for the organization.
  3. Most team members want to collaborate with other groups.

But these premises might be false.

People may not want to lead or work in self-organized teams. They might not want to learn constantly, and teams may not be interested in collaborating with each other.

I’m not talking about those who don’t understand or have enough information to assess the benefits of modern mindsets and ways of working. I am referring to those who are simply unwilling to adopt them.

Every company must establish the right environment for new mindsets to flourish, but this does not mean that all employees will be willing to adopt these mindsets.

A few years ago, a bank employee confessed to me that he understood the benefits of the new ways of thinking but did not feel that they were compatible with his way of life because they demanded too much energy from him.

Organizations invest a lot of time and money in workshops and training programs to evolve their employees’ ways of thinking. But this approach can be -in these situations- like throwing money in a sinkhole.

Organizations often fail to realize that there is another option: focusing on altering microhabits rather than changing mindsets.

Microhabits are actions that require little effort from employees and need minimal motivation to complete. Over time, tiny habits will accumulate and build on each other, resulting in significant change.

The beauty of microhabits is that you can change people’s behavior without requiring large amounts of energy from them, extensive coordination, or marathonic change plans.

Microhabits work because of a psychological phenomenon, known since 1950, called behavioral impulse.

Using microhabits enables people to build better and healthier habits. This is true even with employees who are uncomfortable with new ways of thinking or unwilling to adopt new mindsets.

That’s why it’s crucial to have conversations to find out if people are comfortable with the new reality. This might also help you establish the right approach.

Successfully changing a company involves both helping employees think differently and ensuring that those unwilling to adopt the new reality can still provide value.

In other words, if some employees don’t want to evolve their mindsets, is there still somewhere in the enterprise where they can deliver value?

Microhabits can help individuals to positively impact the enterprise without changing their ways of thinking.

Finally, you should consider company structures that support a diversity of mindsets and ways of working without increasing friction between parties. Friction is only a healthy thing if the interactions are constructive.

The structures and ways of working in your organization should provide an environment in which everyone can add value.

If you want to know more about microhabits and their use during a business transformation, I invite you to check out my latest book Leading Exponential Change (you can now read the first chapter for free).

Thanks for listening,
Erich

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