Book Review: Switch by the Heath Brothers

Book Review: Switch by the Heath Brothers

Image from Amazon.com

A former colleague of mine recommended Switch by Chip and Dan Heath a few weeks ago.  It’s a book about Change and how to be an effective agent for it.  Little did I know that the next few weeks of my life would encompass a great deal of change as I get ready to change professions.  Like most “self-help” or “management” books it gives you a set of stories about how successful change works and some ideas on how to do it.  Unlike most of these books (but like the very best of them) it actually gives you a model of how to make the right changes work for you personally, for your organization and even societally.

The model consists of three main components that make up the mechanics of change.  These three elements are based on riding an elephant:

  • The elephant is your natural willingness and ability to affect change, or to avoid it.  The elephant is what makes it possible for people to go from weighing 250 to running a marathon.  It’s also what makes it so hard to quit smoking.  Once motivated the elephant is great at getting things done, but if it’s not motivated it will kill any chances you have of success.  You can make your elephant work for you by:
    • Shrinking the change so it feels less daunting.  Focus on the first step then the second.
    • Creating an identity around change and making the people around you feel that they are the kind of people who make change.
  • The rider is the logical person above the elephant.  He needs to be able to see the future and make decisions about how to get there if the change is going to happen.  You can point him in the right direction by:
    • Finding Bright Spots – Don’t think too much look at the people that are getting things right and mimic them.
    • Script Critical Moves – It’s amazing how powerful forming a plan can be.  There are some really interesting studies about how people who say, “I’m going to write a two page paper on Christmas Eve while Mom makes dinner.” are more than twice as likely to get the paper done than people who say, “I’m going to write a paper over Christmas break.”
  • The path is where you’ll need the elephant and rider to walk.  There are often ways to make the path easier to follow than it otherwise would be.
    • Tweaking the Environment – There’s a great example from Rackspace who at some point removed their voicemail machine FORCING customer service people to answer the phone or figure out ways to do it.  Often times there are simple ways to make the right answer the easiest or only one.
    • Rallying the Heard – Making change the socially acceptable thing to do.
The book touches on personal and societal change but it seems best fit for the manager who is trying to affect change in his/her organization.  For these people I would highly recommend giving it a quick read as your putting the final touches on your change plan.  It would be a worthwhile task to take your plan and see how it applies in this model.