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Why coaching over 3 months?

With many business functions being based on a quarterly timeframe it seemed logical to run coaching programs over this period using pre and post quarter measurements to provide coaching ROI.

Many asked if the key outcomes of coaching are to modify behaviours to produce better performance and habits are changeable in 21 to 28 days, why does coaching need to run for 3 months?

After a number of early test examples using a variety of coaching sessions and timeframes, Organised Solutions concluded the most


effective coaching program based on long term performance improvements was a four stage coaching engagement over 3 months.


This, by accident result, has now been backed up by a recent behavioural study.


In fact the evidence for the 21 - 28 day myth was based on a book published in 1960 by a plastic surgeon, Dr Maxwell Maltz. He noticed that an amputee took, on average, 21 days to adjust to the loss of a limb and he argued that people take 21 days to adjust to any major life changes.

In a more relevant study, Phillipa Lally and colleagues from the University College London recruited 96 people, who were interested in forming a new habit, such as eating a piece of fruit with lunch, or doing a 15 minute run each day (2009). Participants were then asked daily how automatic their chosen behaviours felt. These questions included things like whether the behaviour was 'hard not to do' and could be done 'without thinking'.

When the researchers examined the different habits, many of the participants showed a curved relationship between practice and automaticity of the form depicted in the graph on the right (solid line).  On average, a plateau in automaticity was reached after 66 days. In other words it had become as much of a habit as it was ever going to become.

Reference:  PSYBlog www.spring.org.uk


66 days study

This study was to investigate the process of habit formation in everyday life, 96 volunteers chose an eating, drinking or activity behaviour to carry out daily in the same context (for example 'after breakfast') for 12 weeks.

They completed the self-report habit index (SRHI) each day and recorded whether they carried out the behaviour. The majority (82) of the participants provided sufficient data for analysis, and increases in automaticity (calculated with a sub-set of SRHI items) were examined over the study period. Nonlinear regressions fitted an asymptotic curve to each individual's automaticity scores over the 84 days The model fitted for 62 (75.6%) individuals, of whom 39 (47.5%) showed a good fit. Performing the behaviour more consistently was associated with better model fit.

The time it took participants to reach 95% of their asymptote of automaticity ranged from 18 to 254 days; indicating considerable variation in how long it takes people to reach their limit of automaticity and highlighting that it can take a very long time. Missing one opportunity to perform the behaviour did not materially affect the habit formation process. With repetition of a behaviour in a consistent context, automaticity increases following an asymptotic curve which can be modelled at the individual level.

How are habits formed: Modelling habit formation in the real world.
Phillippa Lally, Comelia H.M.van Jaarsveld, Henry W.W.Potts, Jane Wardle
Articale first published online: 16 JUL 2009 European Journal of Social Psychology
Copyright © 2009 John Wiley % Sons, Ltd

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