C is for Consequence admin July 23, 2019

C is for Consequence

This is part 4 of 4 of the ABCs of Cultural Change.

The senior executives argued that any initiative that was not reflected in the company’s performance evaluation system wouldn’t stick. They called it accountability.

Based on Aubrey Daniels’ book, Bringing out the Best in People, we agreed and felt that the word “consequence” was a better fit. Anyway, it started with “C.” The core idea in Daniel’s book is that behaviors changes more permanent when followed by a reinforcing consequence than a preceding “antecedent.” In other words, what happens after the behavior matters more in the long run than the cajoling before the behavior.

Daniels categorizes consequences along 3 axes: immediate or delayed; certain or uncertain; positive or negative. Immediate is more powerful than delayed; certain is more powerful than uncertain; and positive is more powerful than negative. Here’s an example that explains why it is so hard to quit smoking.

When you smoke you get an immediate, certain (happens every time), and positive nicotine boost. Whereas another consequence of smoking (cancer) is delayed, uncertain, and negative. Because of the way humans are wired, the immediate, certain, and positive consequence is weighed more heavily than the delayed, uncertain, and negative one.

Applying this to performance evaluations, we thought that the way to think about it this: as we go through the year, we should document positive behaviors right when they happen. The performance evaluation, if done annually, would then be built upon all the existing documentation and not viewed as some extra additional thing that happens annually.