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By Dr. Harry Tennant

Edclicking

by Harry Tennant
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Monday, March 12, 2012

Changing habits

Continuous improvement in an organization is very similar to an individual changing habits. An organization has processes, an individual has habitual routines. An organization process is initiated by a certain set of circumstances, an habitual routine is triggered by a cue. An organization process serves a goal of some kind, an habitual routine is followed by a reward.

The psychologist William James appreciated the power of habits well before he became a psychologist. He wrote in his diary at age 28 that he was considering suicide:

"Today I about touched bottom, and perceive plainly that I must face the choice with open eyes. Shall I frankly throw the moral business overboard, as one unsuited to my innate aptitudes?"

But shortly after he made a decision. Before committing suicide he would conduct an experiment. He would spend a year believing that he had control over himself and his destiny, that he could become better, that he had the free will to change. He had no proof that he could change, nor any proof to the contrary, so he chose to believe that he had the free will to change and his "first act of free will shall be to believe in free will."

In the following year he improved his life for the better in many ways and wrote that the will to believe is the most important ingredient in creating belief in change. And that one of the most important methods for creating that belief was habits. If you believe in change and make change a habit you can make real changes. And the key is, that one's habits are what he chooses them to be, then the habits propel one to become the person he wants to be.

So it is with continuous improvement. An organization must first believe that it can become better. It must believe it can change. And that the key to that change lies in improving its processes. If the processes are improved, the performance of the organization will improve as a consequence.

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Keywords: continuous improvement, habits

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