Laura Methot: Organizations Don't Change Behavior, People Do



When going through a period of change, leaders should be clear about expected outcomes and how to achieve results. Laura Methot, expert vice president in Bain's Results Delivery practice, shares five types of behavior that leaders should exhibit to support frontline teams and produce better results during change.

Read the Bain Brief: Organizations Don't Change Behavior, People Do

Read the transcript below.

LAURA METHOT: Sometimes a deep dive on behavior change spanning all levels of an organization is required in order to unlock full potential. During change, typically just a handful of behaviors have the lion's share of impact. These are behaviors that people choose during moments of truth, when selecting a desired over an undesired behavior can have visible, and even game-changing impact.

When the need for change goes deep, we can have many people from the executive through to the front line, with a few behaviors each to select from in order to collectively move the needle. When the scope of change is big, how do we know where to start? Which behaviors and by whom will have the most impact? Start by getting very clear about the desired business outcomes and prioritize those in which frontline behavior change is needed the most.

A retail client set its sights on increasing market share through a variety of outcomes including expanding customer base and improving multichannel sales. Retail storefront teams can influence a customer base by converting more people who walk into their stores into purchasing customers. And that can require a great deal of behavior change at the front line, so we prioritize that. Once the need for frontline involvement is identified, we convert the business outcomes into measurable results for each frontline team, identify their moments of truth, and derive the few concrete actions that will have the most impact.

Conversion rate can be measured at the store and the shift-team level. And there are a couple of important moments of truth. When people enter the store, do the associates greet them personally or are they heads-down arranging products on shelves? As the people move through the store, do they inquire about needs and make recommendations? Or do they wait for people to come to them for help?

Finally, we identify what the leaders need to do—the behaviors they need to exhibit in order to support the front lines. It turns out there are five key things that make a big difference. When leaders set clear expectations, when they observe employees in action, when they give and receive feedback, and remove barriers, people perform better, and teams produce better results faster. When the line of sight from leader to frontline behavior to local-level results is clear, behavior change becomes our earliest indicator of overall success.

Change can be hard, but people are more likely to embrace it when they know what is expected, feel supported by their leaders, and can see the impact of their actions on outcomes they care about.

Read the Bain Brief: Organizations Don't Change Behavior, People Do