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Where Behavioral Psychology and Business Transformation Meet

Have you ever met someone that says, “Gee, I love change – let’s mix things up!”

Most likely not, as people are typically quite attached to status quo. Imagine then what people really think (and feel) about a business transformation. After all, change is at the heart of a business transformation – and a successful one can’t really occur without massive change where very little is left at status quo.

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Perhaps it’s time for companies to more consciously consider how the people – the employees who are most affected by business transformation change – feel during the process.

The role of human behavior in transformation

Back in the 1980s, the Theory of Planned Behavior, which categorizes human behavior into three kinds of beliefs, was developed by American psychologist and professor Icek Ajzen. The beliefs in Ajzen’s theory include behavioral ones, where attitudes influence a specific behavior, and normative ones, which guide acceptable and non-acceptable norms. The third category is control beliefs, which are about who is impacting someone’s behavior – the actual person, or someone else.

Over the years, Ajzen’s theory has often been applied to improving healthy habits (for instance, in quitting smoking), changing harmful habits (reducing drug consumption), and coaching. But what about applying it to business transformation? What would that look like?

Certainly, there has been a lot of research and practices put in place regarding behavior and change management over time. But perhaps applying Ajzen’s theory can bring a new perspective that would drive greater success in business transformation initiatives. 

Human beliefs: Key drivers for success

So what would happen if companies examined behavioral, normative, and control beliefs during the course of a business transformation?

With the application of Ajzen’s theory, there would most likely be a clearer understanding of when resistance – a normal but often disastrous part of change – crops up for the people involved in the transformation process. Resistant behavioral belief, along with a willingness (or not) to change (normative beliefs), and a perceived sense of control (control beliefs), are just a few of the human characteristics that would arise during a transformation. Whether or not they are acknowledged, addressed, and taken into consideration could make or break the success of the transformation.

Simply put, understanding the psychological mechanisms for behavioral change in business transformation is an endeavor that any company that wants success should undertake. The beliefs outlined here – behavioral, normative, and control – are, in fact, key drivers for building intentions and changing behaviors – and a business transformation that works.

In the article, “The Theory of Planned Behavior: Understanding the Drivers for Behavioral Change in Business Transformation,” in 360° – the Business Transformation Journal, the authors explore the link between behavior and business transformation. They connect Ajzen’s theory with the Business Transformation Management (BTM) methodology in an effort to help companies bridge action-oriented psychological research with business transformation practice. They also discuss two interesting use cases where Ajzen’s theory and BTM have been applied.

360° – the Business Transformation Journal is produced by the Business Transformation Academy, a thought leadership network devoted to providing cutting-edge insights on innovation and business transformation. For more business transformation articles on the SAP Community Network, please visit the 360° – the Business Transformation Journal library.

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