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Switch
November 12, 2010
Written By: Russell Jensen

In a June blog entry  we urged you to run out and buy a copy of the book Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard by Chip and Dan Heath.

The book is a quick and engaging read – the authors are good storytellers; they have interesting, compelling examples; and, time after time they make the reader say “aha, I wish I could see things differently.”  But more importantly, they have written a book that presents a very different kind of change model, one that appears to have an excellent chance of actually working.   

So, we distributed about 40 copies of the book and the online companion resources to our clients and used our three Executive Roundtable sessions in November to  talk through their real world change challenges using the Switch model.

The brothers Heath assert that people have both a rational side (the Rider) and an emotional side (the Elephant), and that need to be engaged to make any meaningful, lasting change.  The classic illustration for this is that while we know we should eat healthier and/or lose those extra ten pounds, we still reach for the potato chips or the donut instead of the broccoli.   Further, they tell us you’ve got to clear the way (the Path) for people to successfully change.  Their Switch model looks like this:

1.  DIRECT the Rider

  • Follow the Bright Spots - success stories wherever you can find them

  • Script the Critical Moves – think small and specific vs big picture

  • Point to the Destination – what appears to be resistance is often a lack of clarity

2.  MOTIVATE the Elephant

  • Find the Feeling – knowing something isn’t enough to cause change 

  • Shrink the Change – break down the change until it no longer spooks the Elephant

  • Grow Your People – this is about identity and a growth mindset

3.  SHAPE the Path

  • Tweak the Environment – when the situation changes, behavior changes

  • Build Habits – when behavior is habitual it is “free” and doesn’t stress the Rider

  • Rally the Herd – behavior is contagious

One of our Roundtable clients is in the business of saving kids.  He and his team run the largest youth emergency services program and shelter in the state.  When he stepped into his current role in 2008 they were faced with three enormous challenges:

  • The number of kids needing service was skyrocketing

  • The magnitude and complexity of mental health and behavioral issues in that population was increasing dramatically

  • Neither the programming nor the people were equipped to adequately meet those challenges

It was fascinating to hear about his change strategy, successes and lessons learned in the context of the Switch model.  Here are some of them, and how they might fit into this model.

  1. Kids are more open to therapy and change when they have a roof over their heads, a meal in their bellies and they feel safe.  Mental health staff are more open to change when they feel safe and appreciated.  (Find the Bright Spots)

  2. We must become accredited by xx date (Script the Critical Moves)

  3. Repeating and reinforcing the three mission critical goals.   (Point to the Destination)

  4. We’ll revamp these procedures for this unit by xx date (rather than focusing on the larger accreditation change).  (Shrink the Change)

  5. Physically redesigning specific units for specific populations to enable the staff to manage the more difficult behavioral issues of that population.  (Tweak the Environment)

Overall, the conversations among the Roundtables were engaging and thoughtful.  Many mentioned on the way out the door that this conversation had given them much to think about.  An example:  another client has just moved into the COO role of a large services business.  He has an ambitious change agenda and is eager to apply the concepts in Switch to the task at hand.  We’ll check back in a few months to learn more about his strategies for getting those Riders and Elephants moving down the right Path.

If you’ve used the strategies presented in Switch, I encourage you to share your experiences in the comments below.

 


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