Time Needed for Successful Behaviour Change

I'd like to throw this question out to the community and ask how long does successful behavioural change take in an organisation? This could be in a small department or company wide and in response to any business problem.

I've seen an example first hand where it took years to work and it's still reinforced on an irregular basis. Those people who have adapted the change themselves tend to reinforce it and pass it on to others.

So would it take days, months, years or minutes? I'm honestly curious and would appreciate any answers from the E-Learning Heroes Community. (Related to the question ideally and not the price of bread or other concerns..)


8 Replies
Ashley Chiasson

Hm. Good question, Nicolas! I think the key to successful behavioural change in an organization is consistency. If the organization is well-established, with good employee morale, the change may take a shorter duration and may require less reinforcement. However, if the organization is less than stable and has a fair amount of employee turnover, the change may take longer and need to be reinforced more consistently. With that being said, if there is high turnover, the change may also become innate as new employees wouldn't know of any other behaviour if trained on the new behaviour from day one. Another issue that I've encountered - if the management structure experiences high turn over, it may be difficult to implement new behavioural changes as each new management individual may have  different style.

I'm going to keep following this thread, because I'm interested to see what everyone else thinks. Sorry I couldn't really give you a straight answer; I just feel there are many variables to consider here.

Holly MacDonald
Dave Neuweiler

I'm thinking that organizations don't change. People within the organizations change (and drag the organization along with them).

I've read that it takes about three weeks for a person to change a habit (those days are filled with abstaining from the old, undesired  behavior and practicing the wanted, new behavior).

So I guess that if you're changing one person's behavior at a time, it could be a really long process, depending on the size of the organization. On the other hand, if you can change everyone's behavior at once...

Nick n/a

Thank you Ashley, Holly and Dave.

@Ashley, I don't think any straight answers would apply in this situation. I'm just happy to look at it from the viewpoints of others and I'll look at your point on consistency.

@Holly, I'll look in detail at those links for  the change forumula. I appreciate your taking the time to point them out to me.

@Dave, I think changing groups of people fits in with people following a movement and changing themselves to fit in. This TED video on 'How to start a movement' gives a rough idea of that: http://www.ted.com/talks/derek_sivers_how_to_start_a_movement

I appreciate all your ideas and answers. Consider my mind open to some of the variables at play now.


Steve Flowers

Good answers I'm going to lean in Dave's direction. Behavior change is individual. I think it was Harold Jarche that said culture is the sum of all behaviors. Lots of factors support / impede behavior change. How entrenched is the existing behavior? How receptive is the individual? How persistent is support and encouragement? Are other factors working against the change (is the wrong behavior rewarded)?

Some good stuff from BJ Fogg on behavior change / habits / choices. 


Bruce Graham

Good answers all round, and a great question.

Individuals - I will go on my research understanding, and go a little longer than Dave's 2 weeks. Consistent practice of a new skill or thought-process, a couple of times a day for around 7 weeks forms a habit. Perhaps we could agree on about 4-5

Organisations - I have seen entire companies literally turn 180 degrees with strong and charismatic leadership. Being in a company that does that is an amazing experience, and allows you to see, somewhat clearly, the factors that cause commercial paralysis and inertia.

Much frustration is caused in business because people want to change and the organisation does not. I think this links right back to all kinds of management and leadership training - leading from the top, setting and articulating the vision etc. etc.

It sounds like there may be a SPECIFIC situation, or scenario you are trying to address here Nick. If so are you able to elaborate?