Friday, June 10, 2011

Cultural Norms and Structural Changes

60-90% of heart patients continue their unhealthy eating habits and sedentary lifestyles.
The simplest of the Lean tools--5S--is rarely sustained beyond one year without a lot of intervention.
In fact, most change programs like Six Sigma and Lean hardly produce the expected profitable results.
Likewise, most mergers and acquisitions fail to bring the synergistic results for which everyone hoped.

Smoking popularity continues to decline.
Litter is no longer ubiquitous on our road sides.
Eating salad as a meal is becoming more commonplace.
Cell phone ownership is now expected, though talking loudly on your phone in a crowd is still frowned upon.

Cultural norms change. They build momentum as the early adopters persevere and exhibit the benefits of the new practices. If there are no benefits, the practices will die out. If the benefits are obvious, it will take off quickly. (The inventor of the copy machine thought there was a need for maybe 5 in the world. And when personal computers were born, how many people really thought they needed one to balance their checkbook and hold recipes--the first touted uses of the machines?)

It does help if the desired practices also become part of the policies, etc. If structural organizational changes occur to formalize the change, it will be easier to encourage and enforce the new changes. For example, many communities now have no-smoking policies for public places. Companies have done the same. Many have changed policies to promote healthy food at business meetings and gatherings.

"You can't legislate morality" but "you can scuttle the ships so they can't retreat."

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