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Conventional wisdom tells us that, if we want to change what we do, we need to first change how we think about those things. It is a commonly held belief that our thoughts dictate our actions. Therefore, as Lean practitioners, we spend a great deal of time and energy attempting to influence the thinking of others in order to drive changes in their behaviors. The problem, as is often the case in the Lean world, is that conventional wisdom is wrong. Dead wrong.
Take for example, health behavior. We all know that we should eat healthy and exercise; but how well do these thoughts lead to changes in our behavior? Obviously, not as well as most of us would hope. According to the field of behavioral psychology, we are all subject to an “intention-behavior gap” that causes a significant discrepancy between what we intend to do and what we actually do. While the underlying causes of the intention-behavior gap are not fully understood, research has identified several factors that narrow the gap, creating a stronger correlation between our actions and our thinking.
Research suggests that we can close the intention-behavior gap by increasing self-efficacy (the extent to which we believe we can complete a task or achieve a goal) and through the planning and execution of our actions. In other words, behavior change occurs by believing that we can change, and then by simply taking planned action. In this model of behavior, the gap does not close because our thinking drives changes in our actions, it closes because the outcomes of our actions, relative to our expectations, changes our thinking.
Therefore, the next time you are tasked with driving change at an individual, team or organizational level, focus on creating the right actions, routines and habits in those affected, rather than by influencing the prevailing beliefs or thinking. And remember,