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VOL. 127 | NO. 137 | Monday, July 16, 2012

Chris Crouch

Look For Keystone Habits

By Chris Crouch

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I recently bought a hybrid car. After a few weeks of driving the car, I suddenly became aware that my driving habits were changing significantly. You see, the car has a little indicator on the dashboard that constantly monitors the gas mileage. If I drive the car gently, I can get well over 40 miles per gallon in town on the model that I bought. I’m not sure if this is true for everyone, but in my case I find myself playing a little game with my car. I drive it as gently as possible in an attempt to increase the gas mileage.

It struck me that this is a good illustration of what some people call a keystone habit. A keystone habit is one habit that generates a lot of, shall we say, drag-along benefits. In the case of my hybrid car, my new habit of trying to get better gas mileage drug along the additional benefit of developing more conservative and safer driving habits. It wasn’t my original intention to drive any differently; the safer driving habits just came along for the ride as I tried to get better gas mileage.

Perhaps you can use this keystone habit idea in your business to drag along a lot of positive secondary benefits. For example, in the late 1980s a major U.S. company was facing dire circumstances related to production issues, profitability and problems related to a severe “us versus them” culture. The CEO of the company decided to implement a strategy to get everyone focused on a keystone habit – in this particular case, safety. Think about it, who was willing to argue that a manufacturing plant shouldn’t be safer? It was a single issue that the unions, employees, management and everyone could embrace.

By attacking habits related to safety, everyone had to develop a better understanding of why injuries occurred in the first place. This understanding, in turn, lead to studying how the manufacturing process was going wrong. Once they discovered problems, everyone had to work together to implement improvements to prevent accidents. In doing all of this, they made the manufacturing processes much more effective and efficient. In other words, everyone focused on doing the right things and doing them right. Among the drag-along benefits of all this cooperative focus – costs went down, quality went up, and profitability skyrocketed. In this case, and as is always the case with keystone habits, one habit starts a chain reaction that helps other good habits take hold.

Think about a keystone habit for your business. When negotiators get stalled, they are trained to go back to the last point of mutual agreement and build from there. What can you get everyone to mutually agree with and focus on that automatically drags along other welcomed benefits? Get your key employees together and ask them a simple question: “What is something that is good for our business that we can all agree on?” Consider making this your keystone habit.

Chris Crouch is CEO of DME Training and Consulting and author of several books on improving productivity. Contact him through www.dmetraining.com.

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