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ATD Blog

How to Change Behavior in Your Organization

Tuesday, July 11, 2023

Are you struggling to make lasting, sustainable change in your organization? You’ll find that just a couple behaviors are often responsible for causing most of the mischief. Let’s discuss a few strategies that will help you foster lasting change.

Start by focusing on behavior. Identify two or three high-leverage behaviors—those that will have a maximum impact on your results—that need to change. We call these vital behaviors. If you can get the individuals in your organization to adapt these vital behaviors, lots of other positive changes will follow.

For example, one company found that to make demanding production schedules, employees were sacrificing product quality by cutting corners and skipping essential processes. Instead of sending a memo or threatening terminations, company leaders focused on fostering one vital behavior to help them meet production schedules without compromising quality: If anyone saw a co-worker cutting corners or compromising quality, they should respectfully confront that person. As people regularly and consistently took responsibility for holding these conversations, the company saw dramatic improvements in productivity and quality. Powerful change begins with finding vital behaviors.


It’s one thing to identify a vital behavior, it’s quite another to get people to do it. The new edition of Crucial Influence offers six sources of influence that make it easier for people to adopt vital behaviors:

  • Values: Tie the new behavior to what people care about.
  • Skills: Teach others what to do and how to do it. Remove the barrier of inability.
  • Support: Tap into the mass of motivational power of social pressure.
  • Teamwork: Draw on social capital by ensuring that everyone involved provides the information, helping hands, materials, and resources required to succeed.
  • Incentives: Make the best use of small but symbolic rewards.
  • Environment: Structure the physical world in a way that makes desired behaviors easy and wrong behaviors difficult.

When you focus on vital behaviors and harness the six sources of influence, you’ll see quick and sustainable change in your organization.

About the Author

Joseph Grenny is a New York Times bestselling author of eight books, including the communication classic, Crucial Conversations. His whose work has been used by nearly half of the Forbes Global 2000 and has helped millions of people achieve better relationships and results. He cofounded Crucial Learning, one of the world’s most respected learning and organization development firms, offering courses in communication, performance, and leadership. Joseph is also the cofounder and current board chair of Unitus Labs, an international nonprofit that has helped more than 50 million people increase their self-reliance and provided capital arrangement services of more than $2 billion to some of the world’s most successful socially oriented ventures. Joseph also cofounded The Other Side Academy (TOSA), a residential school that teaches vocational and life skills to people with histories of crime, addiction, and homelessness.

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