Many change methods talk about the importance of small leading changes that build and engrain the habits for larger change. You can call those changes Trim Tabs, or you can talk about Chip & Dan Heath’s approach of specifically scripting the critical change.

An example of this, taken from Switch, is the small town in Virginia who wanted to improve the health and fitness of their residents. Rather than issuing the normal high level general messages of Eat better and Exercise more, community leaders talked about a single, simple, concrete action:

When you’re buying milk, buy low-fat.

Easy. Anyone can do this. When you’re reaching into the fridge in the supermarket, reach for the other coloured carton without the decision paralysis of what to do next. And after doing it a few times, the habit becomes ingrained.

Many Lean and Agile practises work this way. carving a groove of new behaviour and generating the self-image of we are the kind of people who… both of which are the sustainable foundation for bigger change later on.

So here’s a couple of hypotheses for what that a scriptable critical change might be for collaboration. For embedding we do together behaviour and self-image.

Institute Regular Fika

A group of people sit around tables, drinking coffee

Fika by Ronny-André Bendiksen.
Some rights reserved

This uniquely Swedish take on the coffee break involves coffee, cakes and conversation. Even if it’s only a weekly thing, make it a regular thing. If it’s Friday afternoon, make it every Friday afternoon at a set time in the same place. Provide coffee and cake and lead by example: you make sure you attend every week, and linger and talk with people to show that it’s a time for talking together. This is how we instituted Lean Coffee in a number of organisations, and it’s exactly how the AvegaGroup office works – Friday afternoon, 15:30 is Fika time.

Coffee Together

This one is less culturally specific, and perhaps a little more hard core.

Institute a simple request: when you go for coffee/tea, go with someone.

One of the group at Stockholm Lean Coffee suggested going further: institute a company rule: when you do anything, take someone with you. Bathroom breaks excepted, of course.

Do this enough, and you should discover that people increasingly feel comfortable about doing tasks together, and talking while doing so. Once that behaviour is embedded for coffee, it should be easier to extend it beyond into all kinds of work.

Give it a go, and let me know how it works out for you.


A version of this post was previously published by me on LinkedIn.

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CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 Coffee Rules for Curating Collaboration by Martin Burns is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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