McKinsey Consultants 5-Step Plan to Behaviour Change

Mind‘Behaviour change’ is one of those mysterious terms that everyone talks about in communications, but no-one ever seems quite sure how to achieve it.

Communications specialists are not normally solely responsible for changing people’s behaviours, except perhaps for the odd campaign when communications may take primacy.

It’s more likely that communicators will find themselves among many professional disciplines, all of whom have a stake in ‘change’, without which change would be very difficult indeed, for example HR, Organisational Development or Operations.

But knowing a bit about the science of influencing can only help a communications specialist, not least because you then have a better understanding about how it should be done, and as such, what value communications professionals can contribute.

Wouldn’t it be good if a simple process existed so that even behavioural science novices can immediately get in on the action? How much more informed would your communications strategies be?

Well, look no further, for McKinsey management consultants have written about a methodology they use for addressing behaviour change and mindsets. This is a five-step technique outlined by Jennifer May, Julia Sperling and Luigi Moriconi, in an McKinsey article published this month called, ‘Solving public problems through behavioural science’.

This process helps governments to address public problems within the general population, claim the authors, by influencing both individual and groups. But in my estimation, the principles that are outlined are just as easily applied to the private sector.

Be ambitious and consistently articulate the case for change.

Any behavioural change effort must be grounded in a clearly articulated ambition and contain a strong rationale for the change. From the very beginning, leaders must be concrete about the final outcome they would like to achieve and why behavioural change will be essential to achieving their dream.

Know your people.

In any population, there are certain subgroups (or segments) where small changes can have a dramatic influence on the final outcome. These subgroups can be identified through an analytical segmentation approach that examines such elements as personality, behaviours, mind-sets, and socioeconomic factors. Deeper analysis into the critical segments reveals the key influencers, unconscious biases, and risk factors that are unique to each one. These provide an excellent picture of which individuals should be targeted to trigger change.

Tap into ‘moments of truth.’

Moments of truth are discrete points in time where the choices people make will strongly influence the desired outcome. These decisions differ based on population segment and can be best identified by following an individual through a life cycle or experiential journey. After pinpointing the core moments of truth, it is important to be specific about the concrete behaviour one wants to trigger at each moment and to understand the underlying mindsets that will influence this behaviour.

Target your interventions.

The next step is to select a package of actions, interventions, and enablers for each priority segment, one that will help shift behaviours for each critical choice. When choosing interventions, McKinsey follows a systems approach, which goes beyond individuals and includes influencers and the ecosystem overall.

One particularly helpful way to ensure that interventions are going to be effective is to consider the four elements of McKinsey’s influence model, which examines the crucial areas interventions need to tackle in order to sustainably change behaviours. These include role modelling, the population’s understanding and conviction around the change, the talent and skills required, and the formal reinforcement mechanisms.

Size the prize.

For each package of interventions, you should also estimate the social return on investment (SROI) that those measures will have in comparison to the budget required to make them happen.

For the full article and examples from the Gulf Cooperation Council see: Solving public problems through behavioural science

Also, see my previous post on, McKinsey consultants tap the power of ‘hidden influencers’

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