The Keystone Habit (Part 1)

Time For Change

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”

A habit can be thought of as a pattern of behaviour that happens automatically in response to specific a stimulus.   The more often we repeat the behaviour in response to the stimulus the more entrenched the habit becomes.  And as we know, deeply entrenched habits are often very difficult to break or change.

But the good news, according to researchers, is that some habits are more important than others.  These habits are referred to as keystone habits.  Keystone habits have the ability to start a chain reaction that gives us the willpower and momentum to dislodge other deeply entrenched negative habits and create new positive habits.   The challenge, of course, is to correctly identify these keystone habits in the first place.

As individuals, many of us understand the power of habits and the impact they can have on our lives as individuals but rarely think of their impact at an organisational level.

At QPC we have long believed in the importance of strategic and operational frameworks to drive change within service organisations.   We have gone as far as developing our own extremely detailed customer centric frameworks, such as Customer Interaction Strategy, which allow an organisation to clearly translate customer service strategy into day-to-day operation goals.  The challenge with such frameworks is that they, often by necessity, become extremely detailed and complex requiring specialist knowledge to fully understand.  This complexity in turn makes them difficult to fully execute without watering down the message.

To combat this we use a series of specific tools to execute the strategy without the watering down impact.  One such tool is the keystone habit.  In the early phase of assignments, we try to identify both positive and negative behaviours and the stimuli associated with them.   In doing so we begin to build a picture of the organisation from the perspective of its habits and gain far greater insight into potential keystone habits that can be become very powerful points of leverage. These can then be used later in the assignment.

In future articles I will expand on the tools we have developed and discuss in more depth the impact keystone habits can have on a customer service organisation.

In the meantime if you would like to learn more about the power of habits and how they the shape our lives, organisations and society, I highly recommend The Power of Habit as an excellent overview of the subject.


Scott Chambers, QPC Managing Director