How to change things when change is hard

Switch (How to change things when change is hard) by Chip & Dan Heath is one of the best books I’ve read in some time and contained some new ideas, which isn’t something that I come across in many new books that I read!

The book addresses the challenge of how to make change happen, and offers a framework for change along with lots of examples to illustrate the points.

Ironically, for something I found highly original, the book is based around an analogy used in a book called ‘The Happiness Hypothesis” by Jonathan Haidt (which I’ve not read) and equates change as trying to make an Elephant and Rider change direction. They equate our emotional side to the Elephant, and our rational/logical side to the Rider sat on top of the Elephant. They go on to argue that both the Elephant and Rider need to want to go in a new direction and if they (our rational and emotional sides) disagree, then we’ve got a problem.

The book then provides a lot of examples to support their hypothesis, and I do like their (or Haidt’s) framework, and I can see how it applies to societal, organisational and personal change and it helped me to make sense of my lack of progress with my gym routine!

Their framework for change is based on the following, and makes loads more sense with the examples they provide;

1 – Direct the rider by providing crystal-clear direction.

Identify success stories and by ‘working with the bright spots’, identify what needs to happen to help others change. (Investigate what’s working and clone it)

Provide people with sufficient information to understand what they actually need to do – by ‘scripting the critical moves’, you can overcome the common problem where leaders have set a strategic direction and what appears to be resistance is actually a lack of understanding about what to actually do on a day-to-day basis.

‘Point the the destination’ by setting a clear compelling vision

2 – Motivate the Elephant by engaging the emotional side.

‘Find the feeling’ – engage the emotional side
‘Shrink the change’ – break the change down into manageable chunks
‘Grow your people’ – cultivate a sense of identity

3 – Shape the path by making it easy to succeed

‘Tweak the environment’ by making it easier to do things the right (new) way.
‘Build habits’ – when behaviour is habitual it doesn’t tax the Rider of the Elephant.
Rally the herd – help spread contagious new behaviour.
Keep the Switch going

The book had more of a ‘workbook’ feel to it (the type you might get to accompany a course) as it was packed with examples, and even the examples in the first few chapters give a sense of the overall methodology (before it has been fully covered).

If somebody new to change management asked me to suggest key texts to read, it would probably be this and one of John Kotter’s books.

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