I fell in love, almost immediately, with the words of Charles Duhigg in the Power of Habit–even though I felt a bit like I was cheating on Malcolm Gladwell. I’m sure he’ll get over it.
If you haven’t checked out the book, do it now.
Here’s a little nutshell video about the habit loop:
Anyway, there’s one story that I use quite often during strategic planning sessions:
When Paul O’Neill took over as CEO, the relationship between managers and employees had long been fraught — some 15,000 workers had recently gone on strike.
“When he first got hired, everyone expected him to come in and say, ‘I’m going to concentrate on profits and efficiency and making people work harder.’ But instead what he said was, ‘My No. 1 priority is transforming worker safety habits within this company, so that we have zero injuries’ — which is a big deal in a company where all of your employees handle molten metals,” Duhigg says.
By focusing on worker safety and examining how an inefficient manufacturing process is dangerous to employees and produces subpar aluminum, O’Neill found a way to bring the entire corporation in line.
He catalyzed a series of better practices and habits throughout Alcoa, making it one of the world’s most profitable and efficient companies.
“One of the characteristics of a keystone habit is that it creates a culture. That’s why it seems to have such a profound influence on other patterns in our lives,” Duhigg says.
Huffington Post has the entire O’Neill story here.
Underneath the KPIs, indices, metrics and analysis, there is a number that drives everything within the organization. At first glance, organizations want to count customers, dollars per purchase or number of leads, but typically when you really start digging, you’ll find that there’s a habit that drives change throughout the organization.