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?
This is part two of a series of posts on how to affect change, based on the book Influencer – the Power to Change Anything. Check out the overview in How to Effect Change Part One if you haven’t already. In it, I relayed the general concepts the authors presented on how to go about identifying the behaviors that need change and ways to think about getting it done.
In this second post on how to affect change we look at our example problem and try to use some of the concepts and techniques to get our desired result.
The problem that needs change.
The problem we are following – the result we are trying to achieve is:
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.
Identify specifically and measurably the result that you want.
An effective result is specific and measurable. It is also done in the needed timeframe.
Our problem is that we are having overdrafts on our account. The result that we want needs to be more detailed than just saying no more overdrafts.
If we just say no more overdrafts, it doesn’t address the behavior required to get there.
If we say no more overdrafts, maybe we can just yell at our spouse to “Tell me, gosh darn it, when you use the d…..d ATM!” Do you think that will change your spouse’s behavior?
If we say no more overdrafts, maybe our spouse thinks we are telling them not to use the account. Maybe they regard that as lack of trust and decide to ask for a divorce! That is not the desired result.
If we say no more overdrafts, maybe we can just set up our bank account to return the checks when the money isn’t there – avoiding the overdrafts. Do you think a returned check charge is cheaper than an overdraft charge?
But how do we identify the specific behaviors that we want to change to get to our overall result?
Find the vital behaviors to change.
Before we can start implementing solutions to our overdraft problem, we need to find the behaviors that are causing it. We study our current behavior. Let’s call our husband John and our wife Jane for purposes of this story.
Here is what studying John and Jane’s behavior relating to this account revealed:
- Neither John nor Jane are spendthrifts from the account.
- Sometimes John uses the account to buy lunch for his business clients by using his debit card.
- Sometimes Jane uses the account to buy groceries by writing a check, which is converted to a debit.
- John pays the weekly bills from the account using automatic bill paying.
- Jane pays the periodic bills from the account using checks.
- They both access the account using withdrawals, debit cards, checks and ATMs.
- Jane balances the account to the electronic statement at the end of the month.
- John keeps the ATM slips in his wallet until the end of the month.
- Jane writes her debit’s, ATM transactions, checks and withdrawals into the account’s register as she incurs them.
- The account register is always in Jane’s purse.
- Deposits into the account are all electronic and are not tracked until the end of the month.
Find a working situation.
John and Jane visit their neighbors Jim and Janet one night and get to talking about the high cost of overdrafts. Jim and Janet reveal that they never have overdraft fees on their account. Of course John and Jane want to know how they do it. They see a working situation that is getting the result they want. Will what Jim and Janet do work for them as well?
Here is what Jim and Janet say they do:
- Both of them use the account.
- Neither are spendthrifts from the account.
- Sometimes Jim uses the account to buy lunch for his business clients.
- Sometimes Janet uses the account to buy groceries.
- Jim pays the weekly bills from the account using automatic bill paying.
- Janet pays the periodic bills from a different account using checks.
- They both access the account from debit cards and ATMs and by writing checks.
- Janet balances the account to the electronic statement at the end of the month.
- They both write their debit’s, ATM, withdrawals and check transactions into the account’s register as they are incurred. The register is online and available to both no matter where they are.
- Their bank automatically notifies them by email if their balance falls below $100.
- Jim and Janet have a budget and they know what portion of the account’s monthly inflow will be required to meet their budgeted needs. They also know when the needs will be incurred so they can keep sufficient funds in the account to meet them.
- Deposits into the account are all electronic and are added to the account register as they are deposited.
What are the vital behaviors?
After comparing what Jim and Janet do to what they do, John and Jane conclude that there were four vital behaviors they need to perform:
- Track all transactions as they happen – whether or not the bank has processed them, allowing them to keep a running balance of the value of their account.
- Keep the account transaction tracking ledger where it is available to each of them all the time.
- Make a budget to know what should be going in and coming out of the account and when it happens.
- Pay irregular (periodic) bills from another account.
John and Jane could have done many other things to identify their vital behavior changes. They could have reviewed scientific research, studied personal finance books, consulted a personal finance expert or consultant and etc. If the change you are trying to make is large and socially involved, you would want to use as many sources as possible to identify the vital behaviors to change.
Find the recovery behaviors.
Jim and Janet also shared what happened if one or the other of them forgets to write a transaction in the register. How do they recover from the lapse? How do they avoid overdrafts?
Each of them check their online register daily, prior to conducting any transaction. They keep a base amount, over and above their expected needs, in the account at all times. They share any transaction done on the account at the end of each day and each reminds the other to update the register.
So, John and Jane conclude that the recovery behaviors used by Jim and Janet are:
- Tell each other each day about transactions done and ask if the register was updated.
- Keep more than they need in the account to cover occasional lapses.
Now we know the vital behaviors that John and Jane need to have so that they can avoid overdrafts and the consequent fees.
In the next post on how to affect change, we will explore tools and techniques John and Jane can use to change their behavior – using the personal, social and structural dimension motivational and ability suggestions presented by the authors of Influencer -The Power to Change Anything.
Do you agree that I’ve chosen the correct vital behaviors? Are there more?