Rosabeth Moss Kanter’s five tips for leading campaigns for change
Everyone agrees that culture is the hardest thing to change, whether ethics in the financial system or the eating habits of individuals. That’s because change is not a decision like appointing a new CEO, nor is it an event like winning an election. Change is an ongoing campaign.
Even in a hierarchy, top officials can declare a new policy or restructure by fiat, but they can’t change behavior without a campaign to win hearts and minds. If culture change is difficult within a company, it is even harder in looser systems such as communities and countries. In his book, All Deliberate Speed, Charles Ogletree examines the 50 years after the Supreme Court passed Brown v. Board of Education ordering the desegregation of U.S. public schools; yet decades later schools remain de facto segregated. If laws don’t produce change, then leaders must become adept at campaigns to change behavior.
The best campaigns for change have five elements:
[Here’s one of them.]
“Point of action” nudges. Popular media messages get generalized attention, just as commercials for products do, but like marketing campaigns that require point of sale support, successful behavior change campaigns need to place reminders at the point of action — the moment of truth when behavior is set in motion. For example, bars are naturals for designated driver or safe sex campaign materials. Hand-washing reminders and hand-sanitizers are now prevalent in restaurants and hospitals.
Campaigns for culture change flourish under experienced leaders in later stages of life ready to jump into making a big impact on society. This reasoning underlies the meta-campaign of the Advanced Leadership Fellowship: to deploy a leadership force of social change campaigners. We’re seeking a few great leaders to join the movement and create the next designated driver, patient safety, or science education campaign. The results can improve competitiveness and save lives. That’s a campaign worth undertaking.
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Rosabeth Moss Kanter is a professor at Harvard Business School and the author of Confidence and SuperCorp. Connect with her on Facebook or at Twitter.com/RosabethKanter.
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