Computer says no: changing behaviours - where to start


Posted by Jerome Parisse-Brassens - 08 December, 2014


I recently had to renew my European passport because it had expired.

omputer says no: changing behaviours - where to start

As I live in Australia, the only place I could do this was the consulate. My experience of consulates in general – and this one in particular – is that they epitomise bureaucracy (If you’ve had to apply for a visa in the past I am sure you know what I mean.) As a consequence, I always make sure I have all the documents I need – and more – just in case. This time, I visited the consulate’s website to check out the requirements and noticed a link to click on to obtain more detail. But the link wasn’t working, so I simply guessed what I needed to bring and made the appointment.

As I was sitting in front of the lady looking after my case, waiting for her to scan yet again some of the documents I had brought with me (and which they already had on file…) I told her about the link not working. I expected a keen interest from her, or at least that she might make a note of it and let whomever was in charge of the website know, but instead, she simply raised an eyebrow with a little pout. Meaning: “What do you want me to do about it? It’s not my job.” It could also have meant, “I don’t care”, “I’ve heard it before”, or “I didn’t know we had a website.” To me, it actually felt more like, “I’d rather be drinking a skim latte-two sugars than looking after you right now.” I was astounded by the fact that she didn’t care enough to even say thank you, or acknowledge the issue I had raised.

Have you ever experienced something similar? What did you think it meant?

The behaviour I observed that day at the consulate was a sign that what we at Walking the Talk call the “cultural archetype of innovation” was not present. When innovation is present and expressed in a healthy way in an organisation, there is a focus on continuous improvement, on excellence, on learning from mistakes and creating something new and better. Now, I don’t think the consulate in question has innovation as a strategic imperative (probably the opposite in fact) but what would it take to get the clerk I was facing that day to change her behaviour and jump at the opportunity I presented to provide an improved service to customers? Customer service may actually be closer than innovation as a strategic imperative for the consulate.

To change such behaviour, you would have to reach a deeper level – the level where values and beliefs sit. For example, you would need to change a belief system from “All customers are annoying” to “I am here to provide the best service I can”, or “My job is to make sure the consulate provides the best support to our citizens.” Or, if excellence was also the focus, “My job is to make sure our processes and systems are foolproof, so that we can provide the best service to our citizens.” These new beliefs would definitely trigger a different set of behaviours.

This is what a “Key Behaviour Program” focuses on, a change at the BE level of the individual to create changes at the DO level (behaviours). Experiential programs are a great way to achieve this. A key success factor is to be crystal clear on which behaviours the organisation needs to shift, and to focus on a very small number to start with: those that will create the biggest shift in the organisation. Taking employees through such a program is highly effective, not only because you shift their thinking, but also because you get them to experience what it means in real life.

The one condition for success? Make sure that the leaders are role modeling the behaviours they are trying to shift in everyone else. If this condition is not met, the program will quickly lose credibility, and staff will revert to type. The messaging that comes from leadership is a strong symbol of what is valued and should never be underestimated.


Are you clear on the key behaviours that need to shift in your business for it to be successful?

Have you identified the belief system and assumptions that sit underneath each of those behaviours so that you can start influencing them?

Download Influencing Behaviour eBook 


For more articles on culture change click here

For more case studies, ebooks, reports and white papers visit the Walking the Talk resources page here or contact us to learn how we can transform your culture.



Topics: Leadership, Be Do Have, Behaviour, Behaviour change, Leading culture, Jerome Parisse-Brassens

Recent Posts

Webinar: Astro's Culture Journey

read more

Is your culture supporting or hindering digital transformation?

read more

Digital Transformation: The AI leader of tomorrow is a connected leader

read more