Maximising effective change in large Agile environments using Nudge Theory
Updated: Nov 13, 2021
One of the most challenging areas of implementing organisational change in large Agile environments is changing mindsets and thinking. As a result, organisation that have successfully implemented the Agile framework have said that it was one of the most difficult programs that they have embarked on. In the same breath recent statistics indicate that 70% of organisational change initiatives fail and coincidently there is evidence that demonstrates that most project failures stem from people related issues.
It is generally considered that an organisation’s most important asset is its people, so with this mind, could we benefit from gaining a better understanding of why people behave they do so we can leverage on this knowledge to encourage them to make all the right decisions which will ultimately benefit them and their organisations? This is where behavioural sciences and Nudge theory comes in, where we are applying insights from psychology, neuroscience and economics to understand, predict and influence the decisions our people make.
Nudge Theory is a concept in behavioral science, political theory and behavioral economics which proposes positive reinforcement and indirect suggestions as ways to influence the behavior and decision making of groups or individuals. Nudging contrasts with other ways to achieve compliance, such as education, legislation or enforcement and is used in a number of countries such as United Kingdom, Japan and Germany to implement national initiatives.
By adopting the following practices, we may stand a better chance of changing mindsets and thinking;
Visibility – Make it stand out
Simplicity – Make it easy to follow
Irresistible – Make it captivating
New Normal – Create a new common place
Championship – Demonstrate what ‘good’ looks like
Empowerment – Create a sense of right of possession
Achievable - Make it seem like success is attainable
Attractive – Make it charming and exclusive
Therefore, the thinking is that organisations can explore using the same techniques to help bring about positive outcomes with organisational change initiatives.
The following are a handful of case studies of organisations that have used Nudge Theory to bring about positive change;
The Wrigley Company
Observed insight: The Wrigley Company and Keep Britain Tidy developed Bin it for Good to address littering and challenge behaviour where people will occasionally drop litter on the street rather than putting it in the bin.
The Nudge: For three months, litter bins in participating areas are transformed into charity collection pots with eye-catching bin wraps featuring a new local charity or cause each month, supported by local media coverage and social media outreach. The wraps, posters and media coverage explain that the more litter going into the bins, the more money the charity receives. Thus, by placing waste in the bin, people help their community in two ways: by improving the appearance of their local area and supporting a donation to a local charity. The charities are selected to appeal to local people, either by locally elected representatives or through a council poll. They are usually hyper-local organisations that support key parts of the community. The Bin it for Good nudge is that
(a) local bins are made more salient through a change to their appearance and local publicity,
(b) the act of binning litter is given a direct, tangible positive consequence – a donation to a local good cause.
By offering a reward that benefits the community rather than the individual, Bin it for Good reinforces the intrinsic values that often lead to more positive environmental and social behaviours in the long term.
Observed insight: Most people know drinking water on a night out helps them moderate their alcohol intake, stay in control and avoid the effects of overdoing it. But the social stigma of drinking water when out with mates often stops them. To nudge people to drink responsibly, Heineken had to make moderation cool and put water at the heart of every great night out.
The Nudge: Heineken has long promoted responsible drinking, but wanted to go beyond talking about it and offer a real solution.
By Cyril Awere
Agility Strategist, Executive Director