Small Changes Mean Big Impacts

Often we view organizational change as requiring large-scale changes in structures such as staffing, training, or measures. Yet we repeatedly see the impacts of small, easy-to-do changes that have significant impacts on the desired behavior, and hence the results we want to achieve. Here are four examples that we hope will get you thinking about what are some easy changes or “tweaks” you can do to make it easier for people to do the right thing.

Start school later: In her TED talk Wendy Troxel talks about the impacts of sleep deprivation on teenagers. Around puberty there is a delay in children’s biological clock and they don't start producing melatonin (and winding down to go to sleep) until after 11:00 pm. Therefore, waking a teen at 6:00am to meet a 7:30 am school start is the equivalent of waking an adult at 4:00 am. What often results is kids consume energy drinks, so we have a tired but wired youth. Sleep deprivation also leads to substance abuse and depression, and an increased risk for obesity. Not to mention the negative impacts of driving a car!

The tweak? Start middle and high school at 8:30 am! Wait, too difficult to do, too many stakeholder groups to work with? Read on.

Wash your hands with soap: In another TED Talk, Myriam Sybide notes that 600,000 children a year die from diseases ranging from diarrhea to cholera and even Ebola. The solution? Have people wash their hands after going to the bathroom. Yes, this means also having a bar of soap available, but a relatively easy fix.

Use simple rewards: In the book “Influencer” the authors share an example of a hospital’s effort to increase the number of physicians washing their hands before seeing patients. Their data showed that while 73% of physicians said they washed their hands effectively, only 9% actually met the industry standard. They implemented two simple strategies. One was to hand doctors small bottles of hand sanitizer in the parking lot. The other was a “catch them doing it right” campaign where medical center administrators received a $10 Starbucks cards if they “caught” doctors in the act of using the disinfectant. Compliance moved from 65 to 80%. Want something even simpler?

Leave your mobile phone at your desk: In an interview about Millenials, Simon Sinek comments that besides free food and beanbags (J) Millenials want a sense of purpose and connection in the workplace. Sinek mentions a great “tweak”: Before going to a meeting people must leave their cell phones at their desk. This way, when people wait those 3-4 minutes for the meeting to start, they talk to one another!

Not getting the behaviors you need around an organizational change? We encourage you to think about what are the easy tweaks you can do that make it easier for people to do the right thing.


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