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How to Design Powerful Change Strategies to Influence Key Behaviors

Updated: Dec 13, 2022

In the previous story To Succeed in Change and Transformation, Uncover Why People Behave the Way They Do, we learned how to identify the real causes of behaviors. In this story, we explore how to design effective change strategies.

A reminder: why is it critical to identify the real causes of behaviors before designing change strategies ?

If you look back at failed changes, I bet you’ll discover that it often comes from a poor understanding of the causes of current behaviors, which inevitably led to the choice of the wrong change strategy. When this happens, we don’t understand why our well-executed change strategy doesn’t produce the expected results.

When this happens, we don’t understand why our well-executed change strategy doesn’t produce the expected results.

For example, despite attending an agile training rated five stars, participants’ behaviors have not changed, because other parts of the organization prevented participants from using the new learnings. Sending people to training was simply not the right change strategy. Before considering training, we should have designed strategies to address the social and structural causes that prevented applying new learnings.

Assuming we identified the causes of behaviors, we can continue using the Six Sources of influence model to select the most effective change strategies.

The model explores six sources of influence on behavior, categorized between motivation and ability, and whether the source is personal, social (team and close coworkers), or structural (the rest of the organization and beyond). Playing across these dimensions provides a holistic view.

Let’s go over a few change strategies for each of the six sources of influence.

Personal motivation

The key here is to make the undesirable desirable.

  • Help people develop their self-awareness and discover by themselves why the change matters and how it will help them. As people elicit their personal values, there is a good chance that they can connect the change with their values, which is the most powerful way to ensure personal motivation.

  • Narrate the change with an inspiring vision: what will the organization look like after the change? Don’t limit communication to documents and numbers, tell a story describing the change with a narrative, a rationale, and emotions.

Personal ability

The goal here is to make sure people can develop the knowledge and skills to perform the change.

  • Give space to experiment with new ways of working

  • Ensure an environment of psychological safety

  • Provide training

Social motivation

Behaviors and habits are the product of the norm in their immediate environment. Aka group effect. It’s very difficult to behave in a way that is at odds with direct colleagues.

  • Encourage opinion leaders to show the way

  • Make your learnings and experiments visible and show courage to bring the rest of the team on board

Social ability

  • Challenge the formal and informal work process and work habits within and between teams

  • Enlist enablers, for example the people with the tools and information that will make the change easier

  • Asking for feedback is a simple and powerful way of engaging others. As you ask them to comment on your changes, they will inevitably start questioning their own ways of working

Structural motivation

The key here is to look for strategies that will reward the new behaviors and protect people who try the new behaviors. In other words, people who change should not feel at risk, on the contrary they should feel valued.

  • Reward the expected behaviors

Structural ability

  • Set up the physical environment to make change easier. For example, change office configuration to help collaboration in teams.

  • Set up the technological environment to make change easier

  • Adapt the organization structure in line with new behaviors


Good practices to design change strategies