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What are organisational habits, and how can you improve them?

four people smiling and laughing in a meeting

We’re all aware of the value of good habits, and how to develop them. Basically, it comes down to the repetition of a task or practice until your body and mind become programmed to do it automatically. Whether it’s exercise, eating well or learning something new, like playing a musical instrument, turning it into a habit is the only way you’re ever going to maintain it or get better.

But have you ever thought about habits within your own organisation? Organisational habits are distinct from the processes in your business, namely:

  • Business process deals with the tasks and their respective consequences, which lead to output across the organisation.
  • Organisational habits are the behavioural routines which develop over time to make the execution of tasks more efficient and effective.

As with personal habit creation, good habits within a business build strength, maintain equilibrium and inspire growth. However, just as with personal habit, repeating the same thing over and over—even if that thing is good—will eventually lose its impact. Both the body/mind and the business will fall into a routine of safety and comfort, which eventually have a negative impact—you stop pushing the boundaries, and opportunities to innovate and improve go unrecognised.

Here are four key areas where habits (good and bad!) develop within an organisation:

1. Reporting

2. Communication

3. Customer interaction

4. Healthy & safety

Can you think of other key areas in your business where habits have developed?

man leading a meeting
Much of an organisation’s habits are established by you, as the business leader.

As the leader of the business, you need to be mindful that habits are generally handed down by YOU to the rest of the team. So it’s imperative that you define what you consider to be good habits, and lessen those which you see as negative. It’s a good idea to spend some time thinking of, say, three good habits and three bad habits, and the impact each is having on you, your team and the business in general. Write them down and ask yourself what can be done to further instil the good habits and eradicate the bad ones.

All habit creation is based on a system of cues, responses/routines, and a reward/negative outcome. To bolster or change a habit, you need to look at the cue and the reward/negative outcome associated with it. Once you know what the cue is, focus on the habit associated with it, then review as follows:

1. Look for the cues you provide—how can they be replaced or delegated?

2. Remember that behaviours are connected—by changing one aspect there will be other improvements you can make.

3. Think about the reward from a team member perspective.

4. Where is the improvement/innovation?

5. How does the productivity in your business increase as a result of this change?

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