Switch: How To Change Things When Change Is Hard

April 28, 2010
Switch: How To Change Things When Change Is Hard is one of those books that once you read it you go "well, that was common sense," but then you think "if it was so common sense, why haven't I been doing that?" Why have I been trying to make change the hard way?  Why does some (ok, maybe quite a few) of the "things" I want to change never happen? Or are only partially adopted?  

Change is hard (speaking specifically about change in business, but it is true in all facets of life). But if the change is needed, shouldn't I do the best job I can to make it happen? So, why didn't I put as much thought into making the change happen, as I did in figuring out what needed to be done?  If I think the change is needed then everyone else should understand that too and just do it! Right?  🙂  I was guilty of many of the standard approaches most people use that just don't work, as the book points out. 

I can't do a full review of the book (I wouldn't do it justice).  I also won't use the Heath brothers analogy of elephant and rider, but it does get it's point across.  But I will try to highlight some of the techniques they suggest:
  • Look to see if someone is already successfully addressing the issue you have. If someone else has found a solution, why not copy it?  Either someone else in your organization, a competitor, or business in another industry. More than likely you are not the first person to run into this issue, how are people handling it already?
  • Instead of trying to address the big picture all at once, try a very specific change. The example in the book was instead of trying to address obesity, educate people to switch to 1% milk instead of whole milk. 
  • Be very specific in communicating the end result or what the end state should be.
  • Getting people to feel that the change is needed, is much better than that they think the change is needed.  Think late night SPCA television ads (I support the cause, but the ads just kill you to watch, even worse if you have young kids watching with you). 
  • Make the change seem do-able, so it is not overwhelming to the people you are trying to reach. Make it as small as you can (think 1% milk instead of whole milk).
  • Build an identity around the change and then encourage the mind set. The example from the book was Brasilata calling their employees "inventors” and how they implemented the changes suggested by the employees. But just a title change alone isn't going to change anything long term – look at McDonald's "team members…" You have to walk the talk too. 
  • Change the environment to encourage the change you want. Think Amazon's one-click buying. 
  • Look for ways to make the change a habit.
  • Behavior is contagious, so find ways to encourage the new action.  Think seeding the tip jar to encourage people to give tips.
Like I said, once you see the suggestions it all seems so common sense after you read it, but I know I will use this framework from now on. 

But the Heath brothers did a much better job explaining this all in their book (and they provide many more examples and suggestions).  So what are you waiting for?  Go buy the book already! 

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