Three months into the role, our new Project Manager, Polly, muses on all things change…

The title of this blog sums up 2021 well for me. I’ve had a lot of big changes in my life this year, and taking on the role of Project Manager at Behaviour Change is one of them. So now, 3 months into my new role, I’ve been reflecting on what I’ve learnt and how it differs from my previous roles.

We human beings hate change. We might like to think of ourselves as flexible, but we love the familiar and we don’t tend to embrace change with open arms. So taking the leap of faith and starting a new job is always going to bring a mix of emotions — from excitement for the new challenge, to anxiety and nervousness as the first day approaches. And then a sense of empowerment and achievement as you get a handle on things and feel able to give meaningful input.

Adapting has been the name of the game. My career up until now has been with big corporations in the food industry, so it’s quite a change to have not only moved from client side to agency side, but also from companies with thousands of employees to being one of four. But it’s a change I’m relishing, and I can’t express strongly enough how welcoming the whole team has been. I like to think I’ve slotted in nicely (though my choice of a pint of tea rather than a coffee in the morning has been met with raised eyebrows!)

It’s refreshing to be working in a small team without layers of management to work through, which is probably the biggest difference I’ve noticed between working for a big corporation and a small company. Ideas can be bounced around and decisions signed off all within one meeting, without needing to move up a chain of command. This pace of work brings a need for us all to work in a truly agile and flexible way. You will have perhaps read our ‘Day in the life’ post, which demonstrates the wide range of work we cover between us. It’s my job to have a strong grasp on all these strands of work, to act as ‘producer’ for the show that is Behaviour Change, so to speak.

Joining a small tight-knit team could be difficult, but it’s has been anything but. This has probably been made easier by having worked with the Behaviour Change team over the last few years through our litter work and my previous role at Mars Wrigley (but I think it’s mainly because they are just lovely people.) I’ve also had to get used to the commute again. I’ve spent the last 4 years working from home (yes, even ‘pre-covid’), and while I haven’t missed the joys of delayed and cancelled trains or the hot overcrowded underground, I really have missed the human interaction of being in an office with other people, and the opportunities for productivity and fun this brings.

From a learning point of view, I’ve been given a 101 on all things BS (that’s Behavioural Science just in case you didn’t know!). I’ve also found the time to read Dan Ariely’s Predictably Irrational and Michael Lewis’ The Undoing Project, both of which were hard to put down. It’s fascinating to start to understand some of the psychology behind how people behave, and look at things I already had a top level understanding of with my new behavioural science knowledge applied. Take the change curve for instance. I used this a lot in my previous roles to guide change communications both internally and externally, but it’s really interesting to put a ‘behavioural science’ lens on the change curve and consider the behavioural biases that come into play.

For those unfamiliar with The Change Curve, it’s a theory of how we react to change developed by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in the 1960s. When faced with change we tend to go through a range of emotions, and these often follow a typical path: Status Quo → Disruption → Exploration → Rebuilding. The way people move along the curve varies, but ultimately we go through a similar process.

  • Status Quo — Change isn’t easy to accept. We’re in denial, and trying to ignore thinking and talking about change. The uncertainty that we associate with change means we shift our attention to familiar feelings and situations that make us feel secure.
  • Disruption — When change is actually happening and we realise it’s unavoidable, feelings like anger, self-doubt, and fear can build, while morale and productivity take a nosedive.
  • Exploration — At this stage we become part of the change, beginning to understand the rationale for change and beginning to learn new ways to constructively contribute towards the process.
  • Rebuilding — In the final stage, emotional normalcy is restored. We feel back in control and committed, and we’re engaged and co-operative with our ‘new normal’.

An article in Change Management Review uses the changes employees have faced as a result of Covid-19 to give an overview of the stages of the change curve (using slightly different names for the 4 stages), exploring some of the biases that come into play. For example, it explains that while confirmation bias could hinder change, it can be offset by taking advantage of curiosity tendency bias (our innate desire to seek more information).

Change can be challenging, there can be big highs and deep lows, but when change is done right it can help people to understand and accept the transition to a new normal, and it can be empowering. It’s this feeling of empowerment that we have to strive towards with our behaviour change interventions, so that the people we are taking on our change journeys are proactive and take control, making it a positive experience. In turn they can get a sense of achievement and enhanced self-esteem. As I enter the ‘acceptance’ phase from all the recent change in my life, I can certainly say that I’m feeling empowered and I have a huge sense of achievement.

If you fancy getting on the new job change curve too, we are currently recruiting for a Behavioural Intervention Designer. You can read all about the role and apply through LinkedIn.

Behaviour Change is a not-for-profit social enterprise. We create social and environmental change with big ideas grounded in behavioural science