The 6 stages of behavioral change

Health behavioral models can be extended to business matters. Your data habits can benefit from them.

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Thibaut Collette

August 16, 2022・7 min read

Schema of the 6 stages of behavioral change from the transtheoretical model

Back-to-school is a perfect time to kick off new habits, personally and at work.

While I know it's (way) too early to talk about back-to-school, some of you might be AFK, I wanted to share with you some keys for new habits to stay.

Back at my time at Withings, one specific health model helped us shape our experience for our millions of weight scale users. I discovered along the way that it could also be applied in many non-health related use cases and I guess in many professional situations.

This model is one of the most dominant model to assess an individual's readiness to act on a new healthier behavior and is called the "transtheoretical model"[1] (bingo word). It's used to help patients quit smoking, adhere to antihypertensive medication, manage their weight, ... It defines 6 stages (~ state of mind) and associated actions to help succeed in their journey.

Let's see what are those 6 stages and then how it can be applied to your data team.

🧠 6 stages of behavioral change

Long arrow with the 6 stages written

In the sections below, italic text represent a Sales rep and their data mindset.

Stage 1 — Precontemplation — Not ready

People do not intend to start the change now. They can hear or read about it. They continue to underestimate the pros of changing, overestimate the cons.
Others can help people at this stage encouraging them to become more mindful of the multiple benefits of changing their behavior. A specific trigger is much more impactful for them than too much information.

🧑‍💻 I can make decisions without data. I have particularly good gut feeling.

Stage 2 — Contemplation — Getting ready

Here, people can start to see why they would benefit from making such a change. Pros and cons balance themselves. The cost of change however might hold people back.
People would learn about the kind of person they could become and might be willing to learn more about it. Content / discussions about the pros is particularly helpful here.

🧑‍💻 Andrea from the UK sales team overperform the rest of us. She always share her dashboard with her figures. Data might help her.

Stage 3 —  Preparation — Ready

Now, people are ready to make the change, they might want to talk around about it and feel a small peer-pressure. They try to get as much information as possible about the change itself and how to be prepared in order to overcome their number one concern: failure in action.

🧑‍💻 I don't know enough about how to use data in my day-to-day. I keep reading all newsletter sent by the data team and I subscribe to series of Salesforce online webinars.

Stage 4 — Action — Doing

Change started, people are actively changing their behavior and work is focused on making sure progress continues. The commitment needs to be strengthened in order to reduce risks of slipping back off tracks. Any positive reinforcement or reward can help people in this stage make the right decisions.

🧑‍💻 I created a specific Salesforce view just for me. I open it every morning when starting my day and I force myself to ask one data question a week to our data specialist.

Stage 5 —  Maintenance — Monitoring

Behavior stayed for a long period of time. It cannot be less than a couple of months and very often it is closer to 6 months. Some situations (stressful ones in particular) can be dangerous and may tempt people to break the newly created behavior. Discussion and processes can help cope with those situations.

🧑‍💻 My actions are paying off and I can see that decisions made with data brought me more deals. Now I am trying to convince the rest of the team of the benefits.

Stage 6 —  Relapse — Recycling

This stage might be less adequate when talking about professional behaviors. But highly addictive bad habits (drug use, alcohol, ...) can come back even after long successful "Stage 5" periods. Environment can help people stay out of this zone.

🧑‍💻 Results are somewhat below expectations. I guess it's not due to market conditions but I am pressured by my boss to make a change this week. I don't have time to look at the data, I'll now focus exclusively on X.

What does it mean for my data team?

This behavior modeling is particularly helpful to engage your team in a virtuous circle. Actions and goals involving daily habits would then be great candidates to apply this method.

Here is a list of things you might like to see go live next September in your data team:

  • Document every column in your transformation process
  • Ensure all incoming data requests has some associated context
  • All date and timestamp columns share a specific taxonomy
  • All complex data questions are well documented (in a notebook ;))
  • ...

Depending on the considered item above, each one of you might be in a different stage.

Identify your team's priorities and see where you and your team stand in terms of stage. Before you ditch all topics in Stage 1 from your list, make sure you consider them too. Try to move them up at least to Contemplation Stage. Good prioritization will then be easier.

From the stage you are in for a specific habit, you can list some actions to take in order to help you prepare and then act.

[1] Transtheoretical Model - Wikipedia page

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