The Z Model®

The Z Model® describes a behavioural  modification journey in terms of


  • Building potential energy to shift behaviour through rational means.
  • Using emotional stimulus to release the potential energy as kinetic action.
  • Capturing the kinetic energy as useful work through containers such as new processes, structures, systems.


  • Using logical, emotional, behavioural and habitual levers.

(see table below)


  • Moving between stages of behaviour modification i.e. Apathy, Awareness, Acceptance, Action, Attention and Adaptation.
  • The stages map to the pros and cons the individual is experiencing with respect to modifying their behaviour in order to improve performance.

(see table below)

The Z Model® levers

Levers Description
  • To break apathy and develop awareness, sufficient facts and data about the improvement must be made available – Pain, Solution, Vision (PSV).
  • Involving people in discovery of PSV and encouraging people to consider positive possibilities will aid acceptance.
  • Investigation of benefits can aid positive perception of the initiative by uncovering previously unidentified benefits inherent in the initiative – intangibles, spin offs etc.
  • In energy terms these activities will build potential energy in the form of logic and reasoning in people’s minds to justify the improvement (but do not yet stimulate action).
  • Developing a large number of Leaders who are on board with the improvement gives social power to the improvement effort and reinforces acceptance. The flip from acceptance to action requires emotional stimulation, usually from Leaders who put themselves “at risk” or who “disclose” deeper values and beliefs to connect with people beyond the logical level.
  • If there is fear and frustration among people, Leaders will need to engage that negative energy openly or the flip to a more positive energy will be blocked.
  • Symbolic interventions that provoke emotional responses may be required to stimulate action preparation e.g. new product launch.
  • Following this emotional stimulation, if action cannot be taken within about 30 days people can regress and require further emotional stimulation, which is difficult to achieve.
  • In energy terms these activities stimulate the release of the potential energy built by logic. However, it is essential that the energy released is captured purposefully in useful containers. The containers would be (i) well described required new behaviours and (ii) quality solution design components.
  • Building social support for new behaviour creates peer pressure to take action and sustain efforts.
  • It is critical to clarify the new behaviours required, have Leaders role model them and explain how they should be displayed in everyday work. Without this people do not know what fundamental action is required.
  • Mechanisms must be put in place that reinforce the new behaviours (feedback, reward and coaching) to ensure sufficient attention is paid to them, and prevent regression.
  • In energy terms these activities convert the energy released towards the required behaviours.
  • Fundamental to making the behaviours associated with the improvement a habit is the solution design. New processes, structures, systems, measurement & reward approaches must encourage the new behaviours and make adaptation natural, thereby alienating the old unwanted behaviours.
  • Large-scale involvement events to Fast Forward to the future state, where people can practice behaving in the new way, greatly accelerates the journey to adaptation and formation of the new culture and benefits realisation.
  • In energy terms these solution components and large-scale practices capture, at an organisational system level, the energy released and convert it into useful work.

The Stages of Behaviour Modification

Stages of Behaviour Modification Description Why people get stuck here or fail to progress to next stage. Intervention Processes Required
Apathy Not thinking about issues that could lead to improvement. Other pressures and concerns; limited involvement. 1. Thinking about the improvement
Awareness Considering issues that could lead to improvement. Limited/ one off/ poor quality communication and lack of genuine involvement. 2. Positive evaluation
Acceptance Believing improvement is required and personally preparing. Assumption that logical information is sufficient – lack of emotional stimulation. 3. Drama and symbolism
4. Getting leadership on board
Action Taking overt actions towards improvements that are noticeable to others. Inability to behaviourally anchor the improvement and/ or develop a critical mass of people that are participating. 5. Building social support
6. New behaviour conditioning
Attention Persisting with the improvement, yet prepared for setbacks and treating them as temporary. Expectations set too high; lack of regular and immediate feedback; no opportunity to rehearse the improvement on a large scale. 7. Reinforcement
8. Fast forwarding
Adaptation Improvement becomes stable, setbacks overcome, new norms/ new culture established. 9.   Continuous improvement

The Method provides a range of tools and techniques with facilitation guidance that describes these processes (e.g. Thinking About Improvement) and makes practical the steps and checks to complete them.

Organisational Development As Energy Management

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OrgZoo is an education, method and consulting support service for large organisations who must implement improvements. We focus primarily on defining, designing and delivering the behavioural modifications required from people to realise benefit from the improvement effort. Then we provide the practical tools to help leaders navigate the improvement journey.

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