How to design and create peer pressure to align people and efforts.
Peer pressure is a useful way to get people to work together. A working definition of peer pressure for the purpose of this is:
“Peer pressure is the influence exerted by a peer group or an individual, encouraging other individuals to change their attitudes, values, or behaviors in order to conform to group norms”.
In other words, the group or individual(s) are looking for their peers to behave in a desired manner to achieve given outcomes.
Key Steps to Creating Peer Pressure
1. What is the peer group? – for what group of peers are you looking to create peer pressure for? Be clear on who they are. If the people identified to belong to different groups then you will not be able to work with a group who have commonality – these may be in terms of roles, responsibilities, position etcetera.
2. Identify the outcomes you are looking for – what is it you want the peer group to achieve? Be specific. The tighter the description of what you are trying to achieve the better.
3. What behaviors are you looking for? – this works in two parts:
a. Desired behaviors – what are the behaviors that you want the group to exemplify and demonstrate in working to achieve the desired key outcomes.
b. Undesired behaviors – what behaviors do you not want to see portrayed by the group which, if they occur, will be subjected to peer pressure from the group to make the individual(s) conform to the desired behaviors.
4. Determine the metrics:
a. Outcomes – how will you measure your progress in achieving the outcomes you are looking to realize; how will you know when you have got it? The metrics used need to be meaningful, relevant and commonly shared and understood by the peer group.
b. Behaviors – what will people be doing that need to be exemplified and demonstrated in achieving the desired outcomes.
5. Establish the process – make sure there is a clear process to guide and assist the group to achieve the outcomes and exhibit the desired behavior. This process should align people with what is wanted and set the desired expectations. Furthermore, this process should help to make the situation visible and tangible so those impacted can see what is happening. Furthermore, the process should make clear:
The benefits to every one of adhering to the process
A. The costs to everyone if one or more people do not keep to the process.
B. The costs to everyone if one or more people do not keep to the process.
A company I worked with had a number of teams working on a variety of different projects at the same time. The reports that were written, based on fieldwork, took time and effort to develop and needed to be cross-checked and submitted to a quality control process. This involved a small report processing team of people who liaised with the team leaders. A key aspect of this was for all team leaders to inform the report-processing team on upcoming work for the next week. This allowed them to schedule the workload and ensure that the work was properly prioritized.
Several of the team leaders, despite repeated requests, were either late in submitting the information or did not pass it on at all. This caused problems for both the report-processing team who were given the work at the last minute, with no prior consultation, and then had to try to fit it into the workload that had already been scheduled. This caused them difficulties and could also adversely affect the work of those team leaders who had informed the report-processing team of their upcoming work requirements promptly.
Developing Peer Pressure to Help in Solving the Problem
Step 1: Determine the Peer Group
This is the team leaders in charge of the field teams which compile the information used to create the report.
Step 2, 3 & 4. What are the Desired Outcomes, Desired Behaviours & Metrics?
Step 5: – The Process
The report-processing team developed a report which highlighted who had submitted information, when (whether on-time or late), for which project and the principal responsible. All information was to have been submitted by midday on Friday. Anything coming in after that was regarded as late and was detailed in the report that was emailed to all team leaders, their reports and the principals to whom the team leaders reported.
Sample of the Project Information Update Status Report
The report was sent out with a message to highlight the benefits of conforming to the group and the costs of non-conformance. This was to help stimulate and direct peer pressure.
“Please find below the information submission report. As you are aware providing us with the necessary information when required helps us to schedule the resources to ensure that reports are produced on time and to standards.
Please note that delays in submitting your information will not only make it difficult to schedule your work, and may cause delay, but may also negatively impact the work of your colleagues. Please help them by submitting the information on time.
Currently, 60% of projects are supplying information on time; this is a standard expected of 100%. There are four projects for which we lack information, some of which are significantly overdue. Please help us to address these outstanding projects so we can help you effectively”.
By doing this it made everything visible and tangible. It identified trends and patterns in what people were doing, created peer pressure by highlighting those who were not conforming against a background of everyone conforming, and made it difficult for people to maintain non-conforming behavior.
Try this for yourself. Use the five steps to create the process to help you achieve the desired outcomes and behaviors which will be encouraged by the resulting peer pressure.
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