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How to create behavioral change for your business continuity program

Consider this insight from BJ Fogg of the Stanford Persuasive Technology Lab on how to change behavior:

The better path is to make the target behavior easier to do. I call this Simplicity…..By focusing on Simplicity of the target behavior, you increase Ability.

The purpose of the Persuasive Technology Lab is to create insight into how computing products “from websites to mobile phone software” can be designed to change people’s beliefs and behaviors. According to the Lab, “Attempting big leaps instead of baby steps” is one of the biggest mistakes made when trying to create behavioral change. Instead, the Labs advocates seeking “tiny successes” one after another.

Fogg uses Facebook as an example, but it’s easy to see how we might apply this concept to business continuity. Major change initiatives like business continuity take time, but many programs are often declared failures and abandoned before they are given a chance to succeed.

For this reason, it’s crucial to show immediate signs of success, particularly for programs that are newly initiated or being re-launched. Often, the greatest difficulty organizations face with keeping their business continuity management program running is related to project and task management. Making it as easy as possible for people to get involved by breaking year-long goals into monthly milestones or bite-size steps, for example, condenses a process that can feel tedious and time-consuming into quick and easy steps. Designing the program to be simple is key to keeping it sustainable.

New behaviors also take time to become habitual, so in order for a business continuity management program to be self-sustaining, it must be gradually built and adopted as part of the company culture. In order to accomplish this, people also need what Fogg calls “triggers.” Triggers can be thought of as a cue, prompt, call to action, or request that leads to a chain of desired behaviors. In other words, as Fogg states, “Triggers tell people to ‘do it now!’”

trigger
The concept “trigger” has different names


Fogg continues,

“An effective Trigger for a small behavior can lead people to perform harder behaviors. For example, if I can trigger someone to walk for 10 minutes a day, that person may then buy some walking shoes without any external triggering or intervention. That’s elegant persuasion because the walker doesn’t feel like she’s being persuaded to buy shoes. It;s a natural chain of events that an effective Trigger puts into motion.”

A recent disruption is a common trigger (or a “driver” as we refer to it in the Lootok Demand Model) for most organizations because it reminds people of how quickly a situation can escalate without having a clear course of action. Anyone whose short-term memory is fresh with the panic of uncertainty in a crisis, therefore, is likely to support business continuity initiatives. There’s no doubt an incident creates a sense of fear and urgency; you do it because you believe you have to.

But once the threat is under control, the incident is managed, and business gets back to normal, the question becomes how to maintain people’s interest-level, post-incident. How do we identify other triggers and and prevent the program from becoming stagnant?

The Lootok Demand Model pinpoints various barriers and drivers in the adoption process, highlighting moments at which employee engagement is particularly critical. Once employees begin realizing the importance of BCM, make sure to keep them engaged so BCM continues to be seen as a priority, and empower them to take action. Clarifying those barriers and drivers that either inhibit or support the adoption of business continuity can ensure the organization is creating behavioral change, and increasing its resiliency along a maturity model.