How to get People to Stop Smoking and Become Collaborative


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Around 30 years ago James Prochaska and Carlo DiClemente (professors at the University of Rhode Island) were studying how smokers were giving up their addictions. During their observations they developed a model called the “Stages of Change Model” or “Transtheoretical Model of Behavior Change.” I remember reading and hearing about this when I studied economics and psychology at UCSC and thought it actually applies quite well to enterprise collaboration. This model has in fact been applied to all sorts of behavior changes, not just quitting smoking.

There are five stages: precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, maintenance. When describing the stages I will refer to “the organization” as the collective to which this applies to. Chess has a maturity model which I will release in a few weeks which also has 5 stages which follow this path (although it is not based on this model).


The organization has not really thought about becoming collaborative. This isn’t to say that organization hasn’t heard of or had discussions around this but it has just never seriously considered taking any next steps. Oftentimes in this situation we see employees take matters into their own hands and move forward with various rogue deployments.


Here the organization starts to learn more about what it means to be collaborative and starts to evaluate the pros and cons of this initiative. This is a crucial part of the collaboration journey as it is here where organizations will either decide to move forward or continue to put things off. Evaluations of what the organization could look like or become in the future are considered and some serious thought is placed on becoming collaboration, BUT, the affirmative decision is not yet there.


Typically organizations in this stage are ready to take action and in the “stages of change model” individuals are ready to do so within 30 days. For an organization this is probably going to be more like 30-90 days if not longer but the important part of this is that the organization has decided to take action. Organizations here typically start to take small steps to build support such as letting their executive team and employees know that the collaborative direction is inevitable. The number one concern of individuals in this stage who are trying to change their behavior is, “will they fail?” Organizations are in the same boat and the more support and help they have the greater their chance for success. This is why it is so crucial to have senior leadership on board and leading by example.


This can be thought of as the “implementation” stage for organizations as action has been taken and now the organization is in a battle to maintain its current course. Think of a smoker who is continuously tempted to slip back into their old habit by having a cigarette. Organizations in this stage are also tempted to abandon their collaborative initiatives and just go back to the way things were. In this stage continuous education and training is absolutely crucial as it helps reinforce the positive behaviors that we want employees to exhibit. The best way organizations can encourage a behavior change is by continuously reinforcing it, this can include things such as rewards for moving in the right direction (such as public recognition).


Typically organizations here have already been implementing for a while (6 months for individuals according to the model) and is moving in the right direction. Support, education, and training will continue to remain crucial as the chance of relapse continues to exist. You might think of organizations in this stage as continuously evolving and adapting their collaborative efforts.

Although the original model was created for individuals I find a lot of similarity and applications for the enterprise. I think we spend a lot of time talking about the various collaboration tools out there today and oftentimes we come up with various ideas on how to change behaviors and improve adoption but these models already exist and have been applied to far more complicated challenges. We should spend more time looking at previous change management and behavior models and learning how to apply those to new situations and environments.

What stage do you think your organization is in?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Jacob Morgan
I'm a best-selling author, keynote speaker, and futurist who explores what the future of work is going to look like and how to create great experiences so that employees actually want to show up to work. I've written three best-selling books which are: The Employee Experience Advantage (2017), The Future of Work (2014), and The Collaborative Organization (2012).


  1. Jacob, I’m not sure that a change model for individuals (e.g. to stop smoking) is appropriate for an organizational change.

    Individuals might decide to become more “collaborative” and go through these stages. But how far would they get unless the leadership, reward systems etc. re-enforced collaborative behavior?

    I would think that Kotter’s change model would be a better choice:

    Source: Change Model 3: John Kotter’s 8 Steps of Leading Change

    Can you share any examples of organizations that have changed substantially to become more collaborative?


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