How can a trash can change your life? Think of it this way: what would happen if you came to work and your trash can were missing from your desk? How would it change your behavior? Which of the following are you likely to do?
- actually change your behavior
- squirrel away your trash in the back seat of your car
- go out and find another trash can (and not change your behavior)
These are the choices (and others like them) we face every day in organizations. It’s the little behavior change that we’re looking for. When you’re trying to manage your change, it’s important to define and enable each behavior change you’re looking for.
At Stanford, researchers tried this experiment to see how far they could push behavior change. Every deskside trash bin had been taken away. In its place: a blue recycling container – with a small pocket labeled “landfill only” hooked to the rim. The change was aimed at getting the university’s staff and faculty more routinely involved in everyday activities like recycling and composting.
They started with one school – their graduate school of education. A few great change management factors played in their favor”
- strong champions on staff
- buy-in from the top
- a small group of people to change
- an example for other schools.
The change made people think about what they were consuming. They had to *gasp* walk anything that could not be recycled to a large, common trash bin elsewhere. Another measure?
…..the school adopted a policy against purchasing bottled water for events – an extremely rare stance on campus. Employees who organize events are guided toward eco-friendlier options, like large beverage dispensers with spigots and compostable cups. All staff were also issued large branded ceramic mugs and sturdy water bottles, which have the added benefit of showcasing the school’s commitment beyond its own walls
A key success factor in changing behaviors was a school wide training. People could point to the class and say, “Remember when we learned what goes to the landfill and what doesn’t? Remember the impact of one plastic water bottle on the environment?” The workshop gave people a common language in helping to change behavior.
Stanford is known for their progressive efforts in changing behavior. How can you use some of their learnings to change behavior in your organization? One executive I’m working with is clearly defining the 5 things she wants her customer service people to start doing (i.e., smile before answering the phone) and rewarding people when they do.