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.


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.

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