How Many Behaviors Should We Have?

When we work with clients facilitating the process of helping them to articulate their behaviors (Fundamentals), there’s one question that comes up every time. “How many behaviors should we have?” The answer may surprise you; so let me try to bring some clarity to that issue in this blog post.

No goal

The simple answer to the question is: “However many you have!” I don’t mean to be coy or evasive, but the truth of the matter is that when we work with clients on this, we never start with a goal of getting to a certain number, nor do we have a goal of limiting it to a number. We’re more focused on making sure that we accurately capture the behaviors that are the biggest contributors to driving success in the organization.

Having said that, there obviously are some norms that have evolved after having done this process with more than 50 different companies. Statistically speaking, the fewest we’ve ever done with a client is 20 and the most we’ve done is 31. Typically, the final number will be between 25 and 30.

As you read this, you’re no doubt thinking this is, at best, cumbersome and unwieldy, and at worst, downright crazy. However, once you understand how the Fundamentals are practiced, you begin to realize that the number simply isn’t that relevant. Let me explain.

Practicing one at a time

As I’ve written about previously, all of our clients use weekly rituals to practice their Fundamentals. In other words, each week, they focus on one Fundamental, and do a series of things throughout that week to teach, practice, and engage with that specific Fundamental. They begin with the first Fundamental and scroll through them, in order, until the last one, after which the cycle is repeated again and again forever. In fact, it’s this process of repetition that’s so critical to helping people internalize the desired behavior.

Regardless of the number of Fundamentals we have, we’re still only going to take one at a time, and we’re still going to cycle through them over and over again. So whether the repeat cycle is every 11 weeks, or every 17 weeks, or every 28 weeks, really doesn’t matter much. Of course, if there were a ridiculous number like 650, we’d never get back to the beginning. But outside of something silly like that, the number really isn’t that big of an issue.

More than you think

Interestingly, regardless of how few Fundamentals companies think they’ll have, when we facilitate the process they usually will name an initial list of 30-40 which we eventually edit down a bit. And as they try to edit them down closer to 25-30, they typically agonize over them because each one really feels important. It would be heart wrenching to see the number of key behaviors that would have to be left off the list if we arbitrarily tried to keep it to no more than 5 or 10.

Having practiced Fundamentals in my own company for more than a dozen years, and having worked with more than 50 other companies to create and practice their own, I’ve not yet had a client say afterwards that they think their list is too long.

If you’d like to learn more about how the Fundamentals process can be used to help you create a truly high-performing culture, just give us a call or shoot us an e-mail. We’d be glad to help.

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