How to Affect Change – Part One – Overview

by Marie on July 26, 2012 · 2 comments

Do you ever look around and think to yourself, wow that is really messed up. Do you wish that you could change it to make it work differently, but think that change is impossible?

Company employees who are able to affect positive change at work are often highly compensated. At the executive level, companies in trouble frequently hire outside ‘turnaround’ experts to get the company back on track. Consultants who can identify and diagnose tasks needed to affect a desired change are also often hired and highly compensated.

If you take over tasks or a groups of people at work that have been struggling on for years without being productive, and if you can turn them around and make them productive, you will be rewarded with more pay and more responsibility.

A solution to affecting change has been published.

Sometimes it seems impossible to change things, but there are methods that can help. Authors of the book Influencer, the Power to Change Anything spell it out for us.

When I was at work, my employer brought in a course based on the work in this book and I took it. The suggestions on making change were different than I had previously encountered, and they made sense to me.

The problem that needs change.

Over the next few posts, I would like to share the gist of how these authors suggest that you affect change. Throughout the series of posts, the problem we will follow – the result we are trying to achieve will be the same and is below.  I deliberately picked what I think is a simply solved problem, just to demonstrate the techniques.

Imagine that you and your spouse always have overdrafts on your bank account, costing you extra money in penalties and fees. You want to avoid the overdrafts. 

Today’s post will overview the concepts. Following posts will dive into more detail and follow our sample problem.

The basic concepts of how to affect change.

The basic concept of the authors is that in order to change human behavior, you have to know specifically and measurably what you want to change, and then you have to figure out what is locking people into doing things they way they are. In other words, identify the behavior to change and diagnose the causes of the current behavior.

Find vital behaviors.

As part of that process, you look for vital behaviors. These are behaviors that need to change to get the desired result, and they are the few, very important ones that really make a difference, not every little behavior you see going on. In addition, you look to see if the vital behaviors must happen at certain times to be effective.

Find working situations.

You also look for examples in your situation which did work – which yielded the result you wanted. When you find those positive examples, you inspect them carefully to see how the behaviors in the positive examples are different from the behaviors you want to change.

Find ways to recover.

Also look for successful recovery behaviors – study situations where the the result was being derailed, but somehow some behavior got it back on track.

Once you know what you want to change, and you discover the vital behaviors that need to happen, you can look for tools to use to start the change process. Those tools are NOT lectures, nor are they necessarily training classes, nor are they necessarily reward programs.

Diagnose the problem behaviors and change them.

The author’s believe that you can work in three dimensions to find tools to use: on the personal level, at the social level and with structural (environmental) things.

In each of those dimensions, you can find motivational tools and tools to increase ability.

Sources of diagnosing and solving the problem behaviors.

Here is an expanded overview of the suggestions presented by the authors for each dimension.

Motivation techniques Ability expansion techniques
Personal Get people to try the new behavior.Tell stories to provide a vicarious ‘try it out’ experience. 

Create a game or competition to get people to try the new behavior.


Show people how the new behavior (or the old one) affects people.


Tie the desired behavior to the person’s sense of self worth or morals.

Skills and practice are necessary to get behavior change.Focused attention for short durations is helpful in learning new behavior. 

Immediate feedback while practicing new behavior is helpful.


It is easier to learn complex behaviors if they are broken down into component simple tasks.


People get discouraged if they don’t learn how to deal with setbacks in performing the new behavior. Structure any training to include failure and recovery.


Social Demonstrate the new behavior yourself to pave the way for groups to do it.Find opinion leaders and work with them to spread the behavior. 

Find ways to open up dialog on the problems preventing your desired result that aren’t being discussed.


Make new groups to shake loose old behaviors and get the new ones.


Get lots of people involved in making the behavior changes.Seek support and feedback from brainstorming, diverse groups, multiple options, close colleagues, sample groups and critics
Structural /environmental Don’t use rewards/punishments until you have tried all other methods – they often backfire.Link the rewards used to the vital behaviors – not the final result or inconsequential behaviors. 

Only use rewards that the people actually think ARE rewards.


Use space – move people together or apart.Use cues – remind people of the desired behavior with cues (such as signs) in their environment. 

Use tools – automate things messing with the desired behavior, change reporting structures, work flows, procedures or manuals.

Hopefully I haven’t lost you yet. I promise more examples in the coming posts on effecting change. The benefits are huge if you can takeaway methods that work to effect change!

Can you share a situation where you were able to make a change?

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Marissa @ Thirtysixmonths July 27, 2012 at 5:58 pm

Have you read The Power of Habit? This reminds of that book. I’m looking forward to the next few posts on here.


2 Marie at FamilyMoneyValues July 28, 2012 at 9:03 am

No I haven’t, I’ll have to check it out!


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