That’s the question the Heath brothers address in Switch. I had great expectations before reading the latest book from the authors of best-seller Made to Stick, and man, I was not disappointed. Switch delivers some very solid advice on the subject of change. It’s simple and powerful. It made me wonder why no-one had explained change to me that way before.

Switch presents the change challenge around an analogy borrowed from Jonathan Haidt in his book The Happiness Hypothesis. We have an emotional side, the Elephant, and a rational one, the Rider. Perched on top of the Elephant, the Rider seems to lead the way. But the Rider’s control is an illusion or at best precarious, for when the Elephant decides to go its own way, it easily overpowers the small Rider.

Change efforts often fail for a simple reason: the Rider cannot keep the Elephant on the Path of change long enough to reach the destination. When the Elephant stops moving forward, change fails. I can recall tons of personal examples when this occurred.

For change to occur, we need to appeal to both the Rider and the Elephant and shape the Path. Our Rider is logical, responds well to reason and facts and is useful for long-term planning and direction. Our Elephant looks for short-term gains and instant gratification. We need the Elephant to provide the energy and passion to get things done. If the Rider can keep the Elephant moving down a well prepared Path then there is a good chance for change.

Switch proposes a framework to guide us in situations where we need change to occur. The framework addresses each of the three parts of the change challenge:

  1. Direct the rider

    Provide clear direction to the analytical self, the Rider, to prevent over-thinking and wheel spinning. What looks like change resistance is often lack of clarity.

    Use the following tactics:

    • Find the bright spots

      Focus on the success stories around the change you wish to see; duplicate the things that are working.

    • Script the critical moves

      Make the key steps clear. Describe specific expected behaviors; don’t talk in terms of big picture.

    • Point to the destination

      Describe a compelling purpose and paint an inspiring picture of the future. Change will be easier if people know where they’re going and understand why it’s worth it. People will start thinking about how to make it happen.

  2. Motivate the Elephant

    The Rider will rapidly get exhausted if controlling the Elephant, the emotional side, against its will. For action to take place you need to bring the Elephant onboard. The Elephant might be slow to get going, but once in motion, it goes a long way!

    The tactics are:

    • Find the feeling

      Knowing we need to change is not enough for change to occur. We need to feel something to take action.

    • Shrink the change

      Make the change looks smaller. Big changes feel unattainable and spook the Elephant.

    • Grow your people

      Help people relate to an identity and shift to a growth mindset.

3. Shape the Path

Most change problems are about situations and not people. Instead of trying to change people, change situations to make the process of change easier. 

Use the following tactics:

* **Tweak the environment**

	Make the change as easy as possible by changing the situation. Situation changes result in behavior changes.

* **Build habits**

	Encourage new habits that reinforce the change. Automatic behaviors do no tax the Rider. Set triggers for change in the environment.

* **Rally the herd**

	Use group dynamics to your advantage. Help new behavior spread.

After reading Kotter’s Heart of Change and Bridges’ Managing Transitions, I find that Switch addresses change management in a clear, practical and engaging way. The book is full of stories that illustrate the behavior leaders need to adopt for sucessful change to occur.

If you’re a ScrumMaster in an organisation, I recommend you read the book. It will serve you well. And don’t forget to drop some copies on your high-level managers’ desks.