Addition to the Formula for Change: Rewarding Change

Creating change is difficult.

Bad habits become habits because they have an immediate reward, along with their negative side effects. Taking short cuts at work means I can be finished with my to-do list 90 minutes early. Grabbing a burger, fries and Coke for lunch will give me an instant energy rush.

Replacing a bad habit with a good habit means we must CREATE a system to reward the good habit.

Rewarding change is important.

Kathy Dannemiller refined a Formula for Change in the 1980’s: D x V x F > R.

  • D = Dissatisfaction with how things are now;
  • V = Vision of what is possible;
  • F = First, concrete steps that can be taken towards the vision;
  • R = Resistance

The formula says that if the product of the first three is greater than resistance to change, it is possible to change. Because D, V and F are multiplied, if any of them are absent (zero) the product will be zero. This means that all three must be present in order to create change.

This formula is simple and absolutely brilliant. In both my personal and work life I can look to this formula to help me understand why an important change is not being made. However, this formula is missing the necessary step of rewarding a change in behavior.

In the Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg breaks down habits into three phases: the trigger, the action and the reward. Lets look at eating burgers and fries as an example.

  • The Trigger: The lunch bell rings. You’re starving.
  • The Action: You head to the lunch room, like you do everyday, with $5 in hand to buy your burger, fries and coke.
  • The Reward: You only spent $5 and feel “full” thanks to the rush of processed sugars you just injected into your body.

Lets say you decide that you are sick of the negative health impacts you are dealing with (dissatisfaction) and decide it’s time for a change. You know it’s possible to eat healthy and quickly make huge changes because your friend at work recently made a few healthy changes and is enjoying the benefits of a healthier lifestyle (vision). You talk to him and put together a weekly meal plan (first steps).

In a perfect world, knowing what needs to be changed would be enough, but in the real world it is necessary to find a way to reward yourself along the way.

As managers it is important we remember to develop systems to reward and recognize those making the requested changes.