Behaviourally informed change management embodies a comprehensive and evidence-driven method for navigating the intricacies of organisational change. The article provides an overview of conceptual approaches and tools to support behaviourally informed change management, such as behavioural audits and behaviourally informed KPIs. Explore the practical applications of behavioural science in organisational change management.

Table of content

Introduction

Behaviourally informed change management is an approach to organisational change that leverages insights from behavioural science to understand and influence human behaviour at work. Combining principles from psychology, neuroscience, and economics, it involves understanding cognitive, emotional, and social factors driving behaviour, using empirical evidence to design interventions, and tailoring strategies to an organisation’s particular context. By embracing behavioural science principles, organisations can enhance their ability to navigate the complexities of change and drive meaningful transformation.

Continuous monitoring and adaptation are crucial, with interventions tested and refined before broader implementation. Clear and consistent communication engages employees by addressing concerns and promoting ownership. Ethical considerations ensure that change initiatives respect employees’ integrity and autonomy. Integrating behavioural insights across all organisational levels ensures that these principles are embedded in every aspect of the change process.

Viewing Change Management Through a Behavioural Lens

Viewing change management through a behavioural lens is the cornerstone of an evidence-based approach to managing organisational change. By integrating behavioural insights into change management, organisations can gain a deeper understanding of the human factors driving change. This way recognises that successful change initiatives hinge not only on structural adjustments but also on influencing the behaviours and attitudes of individuals within the organisation.

Effective change management demands more than mere observation; it necessitates a comprehensive examination of cognitive biases. These underlying influential factors, which are frequently overlooked by standard approaches to managing organisational change, require intentional consideration.

Through the lens of behavioural science, organisations can identify and address these biases proactively, guiding decision making towards more rational paths. By examining behavioural patterns, motivations, and cognitive biases, organisations can tailor change efforts more effectively to address underlying dynamics and barriers to change.

Tools for Behaviourally Informed Change Management

Tools to support behaviourally informed change management play a pivotal role in guiding organisations through the complexities of human behaviour within the context of change. These tools encompass a range of methodologies, frameworks, and techniques designed to leverage behavioural insights effectively. The OECD’s (2019) behavioural insights toolkit is a valuable asset for bolstering behaviourally informed change management. It provides a robust framework comprising specific strategies derived from behavioural insights and furnishes a comprehensive array of procedures tailored to underpin behaviourally informed change management in complex organisations. By adeptly leveraging these strategies, organisations can navigate the complexities of human behaviour and steer substantive and enduring change.

A prominent strategy within the BASIC toolkit is the use of nudges. In intricate organisational contexts, nudges can be deployed through various means, such as modifying default options or delivering timely feedback, to prompt employees to adopt new behaviours aligned with organisational objectives.

Another effective approach is the incorporation of social norms. Social norms harness the influence of peer dynamics to mould behaviour within organisations. By spotlighting desirable behaviours and showcasing their adoption by peers or leaders, organisations can cultivate a social milieu that encourages employees to emulate these behaviours, nurturing a culture of positive change.

Additionally, the BASIC toolkit underscores the significance of simplifying decision making processes. Complexity often leads to decision paralysis or procrastination, impeding change endeavours. By simplifying processes, reducing cognitive burdens, and furnishing clear guidance, organisations can empower employees to make decisions more adeptly, propelling progress towards change goals.

Moreover, the BASIC toolkit advocates for utilising incentives and rewards to reinforce desired behaviours. Through offering tangible rewards or acknowledgment for attaining milestones or demonstrating desired behaviours, organisations can motivate employees to actively participate in change initiatives, enhancing their prospects of success.

Behavioural Audits

In change management, a behavioural audit assesses and analyses the behavioural patterns, attitudes, and responses of individuals and groups within an organisation. It identifies current behaviours, their drivers, and their alignment with the organisation’s purpose and goals. This process involves gathering qualitative and quantitative data. The audit findings aid in tailoring change initiatives by addressing behavioural barriers and leveraging positive behaviours.

A behavioural audit utilising insights from behavioural science can be conducted by following these essential steps:

  1. The audit’s scope and objectives must be defined clearly to maintain focus.
  2. Quantitative collection methods, such as employee surveys or behavioural data analysis, can be combined with qualitative techniques, such as journey mapping, interviews and focus groups, to gather comprehensive data.
  3. The data should then be analysed to identify behavioural patterns, drivers, and their alignment with desired objectives.
  4. Findings can be interpreted to comprehend the root causes of behavioural obstacles and opportunities to capitalise on positive behaviours.
  5. These insights can then be utilised to customise change initiatives.

Behaviourally Informed KPIs

In the realm of organisational change, the development of behaviourally informed Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) marks a significant advancement. It is the centre of an evidence-based approach to managing organisational change, where harnessing behavioural insights is crucial for navigating the intricate terrain of human behaviour within organisations.

This approach centres on the premise that genuine change originates from a thorough exploration of an organisation’s behavioural dynamics. By meticulously scrutinising behavioural patterns, the complex network influencing employee actions and reactions can be uncovered. Behavioural science serves as a valuable instrument in this endeavour, providing methodologies to identify these patterns and elucidate their underlying drivers.

Furthermore, understanding human behaviour extends to comprehending motivations. Behavioural insights serve as a compass, aiding leaders in understanding the driving forces behind employee behaviour. Whether intrinsic motivations like personal growth or extrinsic incentives such as rewards, a nuanced understanding of these drivers is vital for crafting interventions that resonate and motivate employees.

Within the complex realm of organisational change, context holds paramount importance. Behavioural science equips leaders with the means to diagnose the organisational landscape accurately, unveiling the concealed dynamics shaping behaviour within it. Armed with this insight, intervention design transcends routine tasks, evolving into a finely tuned art form that addresses the unique intricacies of the organisational context.

In this vein, behaviourally informed KPIs emerge not merely as metrics, but as conceptual guideposts to transformative change. Grounded in empirical evidence and propelled by behavioural insights, they epitomise tangible evidence of the efficacy of understanding human behaviour in steering organisational success.

Actionable Recommendations

  1. Utilise the OECD’s BASIC Toolkit: Leverage strategies like nudges, social norms, simplified decision making, and incentives to influence employee behaviour positively.
  2. Conduct Behavioural Audits: Use various data collection methods to understand behavioural dynamics and customise change initiatives accordingly.
  3. Develop Behaviourally Informed KPIs: Create KPIs based on behavioural insights to measure the success of change initiatives.
  4. Embrace Clear Communication: Ensure consistent communication to engage employees, address concerns, and foster ownership of change initiatives.

Conclusion

Behaviourally informed change management represents a holistic and evidence-based approach to navigating the complexities of organisational change. By integrating insights from behavioural science, organisations can gain a deeper understanding of the human factors driving change and tailor interventions more effectively to address underlying dynamics and barriers. Through tools such as the OECD’s BASIC toolkit, behavioural audits, and the development of behaviourally informed KPIs, organisations can leverage specific strategies to positively influence employee behaviour and drive sustainable change. Embracing clear and consistent communication further enhances employee engagement and fosters a positive organisational culture conducive to change. By implementing these actionable recommendations, organisations can navigate the challenges of change management with greater efficacy and achieve meaningful and enduring transformation.

 

Further readings

Barrah, B. B. and P. Jordanov (2024), The Dynamics of Business Behavior. An Evidence-Based Approach to Managing Organizational Change, Hoboken, NJ. Wiley

Gibbons, P. and T. Kennedy (eds.) (2024), The Future of Change Management (Vol. 1). Collected Essays from Leading Thinkers and Practitioners, Phronesis Media

Halpern, D. (2015), Inside the Nudge Unit. How Small Changes Can Make a Big Difference, London: WH Allen

OECD (2019), Tools and Ethics for Applied Behavioural Insights. The BASIC Toolkit, Paris: OECD Publishing