: How can companies
eliminate behavioral waste?
Webers: Applied behavior analysis techniques are relatively well known. The
challenge is more about relative emphasis.
The ABC model, for example, is a tool for
evaluating behavioral outcomes in terms of
antecedents, behaviors, and consequences.
People tend, however, to focus exclusively
on the antecedents by adapting the processes
and structures that activate behaviors. But
they spend very little time actually observing behaviors, which means they miss many
hidden activators. And they either ignore
consequences altogether or focus on control
mechanisms that don’t instill ownership.
I liken the distinction to a traffic analogy. Traffic lights with cameras are a pure
control mechanism. They are one-size-fits-all, not tuned to actual traffic conditions,
so they don’t resolve the root causes of
bad behaviors. And the consequences of
bad behavior aren’t felt until long afterwards, so they have minimal motivational
impact. Roundabouts, on the other hand,
are a dynamic solution that can adapt to
changing conditions. When traffic volume is light, cars can flow unencumbered.
When heavy, drivers experience immediate consequences to unsafe conduct that
cause them to slow down. Translated into a
consulting context, the analogy of a roundabout is what I call a “steering structure.”
The idea is to construct a system of targets
and monitoring mechanisms that starts at
the behavioral level of individual workers
and builds into overall KPIs. We want to
provide immediate feedback tied to real
behavioral root causes and ensure problems
are systematically escalated so they can be
resolved by the management level nearest
the source of the problem.
: How has the applica-
tion of performance behavior changed your
consulting service delivery?
Webers: We’ve learned through our project
work that there are two critical aspects to
implementing performance behavior. One is
that the foundation of an effective steering
structure is a fundamental understanding
of how behaviors drive performance outcomes. Any outcome is the product of many
behaviors, but only a few of them really
matter. Companies need to identify what I
call “high impact moments”—the specific
time, place, and conditions at which adverse
behaviors disrupt performance.
The trouble is that most companies
think about performance improvement
as an engineering discipline, and engineers don’t like to spend time observing
behaviors. As a consequence, we spend a
lot more time on the shop floor with the
client management observing behaviors
and measuring their impacts. The other
critical need is to change the mindset of
leadership. Leaders typically grow up in
a control environment, and this is their
default management style.
Transforming leaders to spend time
observing behaviors, supporting workers,
and reinforcing good behaviors takes
time. We’re consequently deploying
smaller teams of consultants for much
longer durations who can provide the
ongoing coaching clients need.
: What’s next for EFESO
and performance behavior?
Webers: The biggest change on the horizon is what’s going to happen to workers.
We’ve gone through the automation phase;
the next step will be “autonomization” as
companies develop virtual processes without human intervention. There will still be
high impact moments, but they’ll be at different points along the value chain. As consultants, we need to challenge our clients
every day in their progression journey; the
way we achieve results today will not be
the same as the way we will tomorrow.