Standardised Modelling – Behavioural change is always hard

Standardised Modelling


Morten Siersted


16 Jan 2018




“If you want to make enemies, try to change something” Woodrow Wilson

Despite what we modelling geeks might like to think, people are both rational and emotional. Which makes standardised modelling practices difficult to implement. Our ebook ‘How to Standardise Modelling’ helps modellers understand some of these challenges

Psychologist Jonathan Haidt likens our emotional side to an elephant and our rational side to its rider. Sitting on top of the elephant, the rider seems to be in charge. But any time the rider and elephant disagree about which way to go, the elephant is going to win. As Chip and Dan Heath put it:

“Most of us are only too familiar with situations in which our Elephant overpowers our Rider. You’ve experienced this if you’ve ever slept in, overeaten, dialled up your ex at midnight, procrastinated, tried to quit and failed, skipped the gym, said something you’ve regretted. Good thing no one is keeping score.”

In “The Heart of Change”, John Kotter reports on a study he undertook with Deloitte Consulting on how change happens in large organisations. He noted that in most change situations, managers initially focused on strategy, structure, culture or systems, which leads them to miss the most important issue:

“. . . the core of the matter is always about changing the behaviour of people, and behaviour change happens in highly successful situations by speaking to people’s feelings. This is true even in organisations that are very focused on analysis and quantitative measurement, even among people who think of themselves as smart in an MBA sense.”

So behavioural change is hard. It is also exhausting.

When a golfer is working on improving her swing, she will exercise considerable “self-supervision”. She will be constantly watching herself to make sure she is “doing it properly”, trying to remember the training she has received. Compared to the more “automatic” functioning of walking or driving long distances, psychologists have discovered that, a. self-control of this nature is an exhaustible resource and, b. exercising it is hard and very draining.

Chip and Dan Heath conclude that it’s not true to say that change is hard because people are lazy. It’s hard because people wear themselves out:

“When people try to change things, they’re usually tinkering with behaviours that have become automatic, and changing these behaviours requires careful supervision by the Rider. The bigger the change you’re suggesting, the more it will sap people’s self-control.”

Morten Siersted
Morten founded F1F9 in 1999. He has played a key role in developing the FAST Standard, including setting up the FAST Standard Organisation in 2011.