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Transtheoretical Model of Behaviour Change

When embarking on a DevOps Transformation it’s common to encounter resistance to change. The Transtheoretical Model (TTM) offers some useful guidance on how to influence people to change. ​

DevOpsGroup . - Transtheoretical Model of Behaviour Diagram
DevOpsGroup . - Transtheoretical Model of Behaviour Diagram Breakdown

5 stages of behavioural change

The Transtheoretical Model of Behaviour Change emerged out of psychological research in the late 1970’s as a synthesis of different theories of behavioural change (hence the “Transtheoretical” part of the name). The model suggests that there are 5 stages people go through when faced with a behavioural change.

  1. Precontemplation (“not ready”) – “People are not intending to take action in the foreseeable future, and can be unaware that their behaviour is problematic”
  2. Contemplation (“getting ready”) – “People are beginning to recognize that their behaviour is problematic, and start to look at the pros and cons of their continued actions”
  3. Preparation (“ready”) – “People are intending to take action in the immediate future, and may begin taking small steps toward behaviour change”[nb 1]
  4. Action – “People have made specific overt modifications in modifying their problem behaviour or in acquiring new healthy behaviours”
  5. Maintenance – “People have been able to sustain action for at least six months and are working to prevent relapse”

How is this useful?

DevOps Transformation is about changing people’s behaviour (and hence the organisation’s Culture). A DevOps mindset means changing your attitude towards change, risk, failure, leadership, and many other factors. If we understand more about HOW people “change their minds” (and hence their behaviour) we can implement more effective change programmes and hopefully reduce the resistance to change, and in turn, reduce the risk of failure of and speed up the transformation process.

One key lesson is for the people in the DevOps Transformation team itself – as part of the team responsible for implementing DevOps you are, by definition, in the Action phase, with an Action mindset. You’re already thought about why the change is needed, read the relevant literature, made plans etc. You’ve understood and internalised the need for the Transformation and are ready to get started.

However, much of the rest of the organisation isn’t ready. They might still be in Pre-Contemplation, blissfully unaware that there is any NEED to change. Or maybe they are aware that the status quo is no longer good enough (Contemplation) but they are a long way from convinced that DevOps (or Cloud or Agile or Lean) is the answer. If you, as a change agent, are communicating “action” stage messages to people who are still at an earlier stage = instant resistance.

The key then is to match the change programme communications to the right phase, for example you might structure your communication strategy like this…

DevOpsGroup . - Transtheoretical Model of Behaviour Diagram - Pre-contemplation

Getting people thinking

From Pre-Contemplation to Contemplation – Start with messaging around why the current ways of working aren’t good enough. Your industry sector is changing, your market share is dwindling, there are new startups trying to disrupt your market, there are plenty of levers here you can use. But the key goal is to get people to understand that the “status quo” is no longer good enough.

DevOpsGroup . - Transtheoretical Model of Behaviour Diagram - Contemplation

Build Momentum

From Contemplation to Preparation – here it’s all about providing the sceptics with facts and evidence as to why DevOps is the right strategy e.g. stats from the State of DevOps Report, case studies from DevOps Enterprise Summit etc. Look for ways to make the message personal e.g. how can the recipient become the hero of the change process, advance their career by getting on board early etc. ​

DevOpsGroup . - Transtheoretical Model of Behaviour Diagram - Preparation

Create a solid foundation

From Preparation to Action – here you are laying the foundations for a successful change programme – you might even have to reign in the enthusiasm of your new converts! Plan to start small, and generate quick wins. Identify the objectives and key results you’ll use to measure success. Focus on making the work visible to everyone in the organisation. Lock in your key exec sponsors and get their commitment down on paper and in public forums. ​

DevOpsGroup . - Transtheoretical Model of Behaviour Diagram - Action

Action Stations!

From Action to Maintenance – Here it’s all about building on your successes but not hiding your failures either. It’s about ensuring that the feedback loops work so you are constantly improving on your change process, and keeping on top of your key metrics. It’s all about keeping up the momentum as you transform the next team, the next application, the next environment and so on. ​

DevOpsGroup . - Transtheoretical Model of Behaviour Diagram - Maintenance

Making it stick

Maintenance and beyond – Hopefully by now DevOps is “the new normal” – it has become “the way things are done around here”. DevOps practices are baked into your daily work, but they are also baked into your hiring practices, your personal and team incentives, your objectives and key results. The key is to keep the continuously learning cycle going – constantly collecting feedback and then USING that feedback to improve our ways of working. There is no going back! ​

Hopefully this model will help you and your organisation have a successful transformation! If you want some help along the way our DevOps Transformation services are here to help. ​

Want a high-res PDF of this?

Click here to download the full Transtheoretical Model (TTM) of Behaviour Change PDF.

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