Case Study: Creating a context for more effective team communication

Case Study: Creating a context for more effective team communication

An 8-member business unit participated in data-driven consulting and alerts. Their goal was to increase the effectiveness of their communication and discuss difficult, often avoided topics, effectively. Natural Language Processing of staff communications and brief text prompted surveys were used to measure staff behavior and needs during the culture building intervention.

Communication was monitored for a total of three months. Consultants were made available and alerts sent to the team when key behaviors signaled improvement or need.

Pictured to the right: We were able to see changes in communication volume. Through monitoring these and other individual and group communication patterns we were able to monitor distress, satisfaction, and engagement in skills training exercises.

 

 

To the Left: Patterns in expressed emotion alerted us to difficulties within customer and employee interactions.

We offered targeted support and skills building, strengthening performance.

Results

Employees reported a >100% increase in the financial value of their daily performance.

Analysis revealed a >25% increase in conversations that addressed target issues identified by management (e.g., operations & budgetary relevance).

Measurement of team alignment in purpose indicate significant increases in “purpose alignment” and a leveling out of work rhythms that had increased employee stress.

Leadership reported increased ROI from regularly scheduled strategic meetings and a change in strategy that improved the financial viability of the unit. Leadership requested continued monitoring and engagement with ENSO Group to address continuing needs and the needs of other business units.

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How to change a culture.

How to change a culture.

Photo by Pratham Gupta on Unsplash

Article by Angela Cathey

We work with companies to improve their cultures. I’ve noticed this term, “culture” inspires a bit of awe and confusion in both business and behavioral analytic communities.

Business leaders have come to a relative state of agreement that “culture is king” (source unknown) and “culture eats strategy for breakfast. (Peter Drucker)” . There’s less agreement about what culture is and if it is indeed changeable at all.

What is “culture”?

From a behavior analytic perspective, culture isn’t so ambiguous. It’s an emergent quality that arises from the interaction of behaviors. This may sound ambiguous but it makes what business often sees as vital and difficult to change, changeable.

Culture isn’t an amorphous cloud.

It’s the psychological effect of a collection of behaviors. It’s the product of people behaving together or over time (see Houmanfar, Rodrigues, & Ward, 2010) for a more thorough analysis. The import point is – it’s changeable and it’s the product of your interpersonal behavior, biases, policy decisions (laws, strucutres, etc.), and verbal behavior. With everything we do, we show others what we see as important, unimportant, desirable, and undesirable.

It sounds like a lot – but changing a culture is a matter of making different choices. It’s creating an environment that is purposeful, well-designed, and makes the choice to appropriately reinforce or reward what truly ‘matters.’ By looking at the collective behaviors of a culture, a business, and the experiences that relate to them (e.g., psychological safety), we can use behavior analysis to move key switch points and change a culture for the better.

If you’re thinking now, so what’s the answer – what do I do?

1. Start with the realization that the answer is dependent on the problem & desired endpoint. There is no single solution. Thankfully, their are methods and practices that have great evidence supporting them, these include behavior analysis and measurement.

2. With the endpoint you seek in mind, measure actual behavior and how it influences this endpoint.

3. Apply behavior analytic principles to create change and support that change.

4. Continue to measure and apply – real behavior change requires teaching skills to fluency and supporting the use of those skills. It’s not as complicated as it may sound – but it requires real thought and application of science to meet your goal.

What to know more about how to change culture? Contact us for a free consultation.

Sources:

Houmanfour, R., Rodrigues, N. J., & Ward, T. A. (2010). Emergence and metacontingency: Points of contact and departure. Behavior and Social Issues, 19, 78-103.

5 ways technology and behavioral science can create a better world.

5 ways technology and behavioral science can create a better world.

I ran across another article today about how society is slowly devolving, in part, due to technology. This is becoming a more common refrane. Tech leaders are frequently quoted saying they don’t allow their children to play with the devices they create.

The ‘tech elite’ are onto something and we are just coming to terms with it in many sciences. We’ve known for many years, in the behavioral sciences, that the environments we exist in influence us – for better or worse.

We like to think of our experiences simply and tend to perceive only those consequences closest to us temporally, spatially, and socially. We “like” and emoticon ourselves into disconnection as we feel the bright shiny connection in front of us, and in the process, we miss the people sitting next to us.

We as a society are overwhelmed, over-worked, and driven, most logically, to distraction in the screen faces we carry with us. In the Behavioral Sciences, B. F. Skinner (1986) wrote “What’s wrong with the Western World” and described the impact of modern work processes on how we as human’s function. The summary, “distance from the impact of our behaviors, is not a good thing.”

 

In a hyper-connected world – we have customized technologies around natural human desires. We buy ‘shiny’ distraction avoidance tools. As tech has evolved, it has also come to offer us other tools shaped around human values and goals. We now have FitBits and Alexa to help us live better lives.

The missing piece; however, is that the solutions themselves are one-sided. We have learned to embrace algorithms to help us choose movies (Netflix, etc.) and quickly tag pictures of our friends (Facebook), but we distrust technology in its ability to help us truly improve ourselves.

We offer a few ideas from the nexus of Behavioral Science and Technology, to help humanity connect to itself again.

1) Build technologies that adapt to intended purpose. 

When we build technologies without awareness to our own essential humanness we inadvertatly reinforce our worst behaviors. People will always be attracted to ‘shiny’ things, they will want quick rewards AND we need to plan technologies for exceptional #humanexperience right along with our #USERexperience.

More on that, below.

2) Build technologies that help us engage other perspectives. 

In a hyper-connected world, we’ve become sucked into news loos and algorithm echo chambers. We see the news that we “like,” not what we need to see about our own worlds. Unawareness, we are silently told, “is bliss.” It is not, we are progressively more lonely, less able to self-regulate, more depressed, more anxious… and of course, given all this we stare at our phones more unable to handle perspectives that differ from our own.

The solutions we typically hear for this are “put down your phone” and, in deed, this is one solution but only short-sighted. The long-term route is to appreciate that we are human, flawed and beautiful all the same.

If we want to pick a realistic way forward, maybe we should begin to use technology to help us see our individual strengths, weaknesses, and perspectives in relation to one another.

3) Build technologies that make us aware of our strengths and weaknesses, in RELATION.

Remember the human tendency to seek out the ‘shiny’? We tend to look for easy answers, for the “best” answer. What we miss is how to balance ourselves in relation to our world, and those in it. We then design FitBits, Alexas, and solutions around the easy answers that inevitably lead us in the wrong direction. Any healthy behavior can go wrong taken to full tilt, and yet we persist… chasing easy answers.

One way that we can address this is to begin to focus on answers in relation to context. Contextual technologies allow us to notice what the best answer is for the current situation, environment, and purpose.

4) Use Intelligence Augmenting technologies to alert us of when we are falling into our patterns of dysfunction, bias, and unawareness.

 

Intelligence Augmenting technologies are one possible way forward here. Our patterns of avoidance, bias, and unawareness are no secret. The Behavioral Sciences have been using studying how to reduce mismatch between person and environment, and labeling it “psychopathology” for many decades.

It is time that we begin to work across lines to find solutions that bring us together.

5) Build technologies through “open” paticipatory design methods.

One key to advancing us must be opening the doors to participatory development. We need to recognize human motivations and flaws in our processes. If “tech” is not working, it is because “we” are not working towards a common perspective in what we create.

In this world, there are few easy answers; however, one I’d stake my work on is:

We as humans need to work on embracing our natural complexity and celebrating our strengths. If technology can help us do that, we should be working towards that purpose together.

Angela Cathey, MA, LPC

Angela Cathey, MA, LPC

Director Enso Group, Trainer, & Consultant

Angela is experienced in leading and coordinating the operations of research and intervention teams. She has a master’s in Clinical Psychology from the University of Houston – Clear Lake. She has trained in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Functional Analytic Psychotherapy (FAP), and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) extensively. She has been well-trained in the treatment of anxiety and mood disorders. She has also trained extensively in treatment of trauma, utilizing Prolonged Exposure (PE) and obsessive-compulsive spectrum conditions, utilizing Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP).

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