Behavioural change – Measuring the unmeasureable


I’ve been working with a group of very smart, highly educated safety professionals over the two past month, developing a behavioural based safety initiative. It has elements of safety leadership, neuroscience, behavioural economics and habits science.

The program is a pilot and planned to take a number of months but we have sneak previewed some of the content to a group of frontline workers. Bam….We had immediate acceptance and a pull from the frontline. “This is the best safety stuff we have ever had” they said. “How do we get more?” Never in the time that I’ve been a safety person had I witnessed such acceptance! I had participants send me emails, one guy returned the next day on his day off to talk more. Wow. What a massive rush which filled me and others full of confidence that we are on the right track.

The highly paid help then asked us “how do we measure success?”. My first thoughts, were you not in the presentation with the frontline that I was in? No thats right you weren’t. If you had, you would have seen for yourself what success looks like. Be that as it may, we progressed this discussion along a path of measuring the change in peoples behaviour. What a tough discussion. We had the engineer types wanting some type of “whatever” per person or per site and the cynical types saying whats the point, no-one is going to fill in forms so lets just see what happens.

As we are seeking to affect peoples behaviour, the key question is how do we measure behavioural change. Zoe Chance from Ted X fame and Professor at Yale talked about behavioural change being empirical and specific to the individual therefore as a researcher she can’t measure it across groups.

So here we were working on creating KPI’s for the measuring the un-measurable and without measurable KPIs we can’t show success implying failure in some way.

I left the meeting feeling deflated. Why do we need to measure something to show success. Can we feel success? The energy I got from the frontline workers when I was presenting felt like success. The follow up contact I got from the frontline workers felt like success. The additional requests for “can you share more of this with us” seemed like success. But it seems we needed to have a KPI to measure the unmeasurable to show success.


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