Monday, March 29, 2010

Book Notes - Switch

My prediction: this is the best book I will read this year.

Switch is an amazingly relevant book because, as you must know, change is constant. In fact, what will likely happen is that we will experience an increase in the rate of change as we get older and life continues. Switch has some great guidance for navigating change - individually as well as in the contexts of groups. This book helps us think about change both conceptually and in the details of execution - it is a great balance of the strategic and tactical.

And if you are a regular around here - you are some kind of leader, youth worker or change agent. The very nature of a worldview based on Jesus is rooted in change. And in the realm of students, our goal should be to erupt a tribe of revolutionaries. That goal doesn't come easily and requires us to be guiding how and why our students should change.

So, onto the notes. Some of them might be a tad cryptic unless you have read the book, but I think you will be able to pick up important concepts either way. [I've starred some of the ones that stuck out to me.]

++ Intro
Three surprises about change:
1 - What looks like a people problem is often a situation problem.
2 - What looks like laziness is often exhaustion.
3 - If you want people to change, you must provide crystal clear direction.

Rider - rational, right brained, rider on top of the Elephant
Elephant - needs direction, hard to stop once it has momentum, emotional.

++ Direct The Rider
+ Find the Bright Spots
Ask, "What is working and how can we do more of it?" instead of the typical, "What is broken and how do we fix it?" [sound like StrengthsFinder stuff to you too?]
If you are a manager, ask yourself: "What is the ratio of the time I spend solving problems to the time I spend scaling successes?"
- reducing child malnutrition in Vietnam
+ Script the Critical Moves
Decision Paralysis
The more choices the Rider is offered, the more exhausted the Rider gets. Have you ever noticed that shopping is a lot more tiring than other kinds of light activity? Now you know - it's all those choices. This is important, because we encounter excess choices all around us.
- Brazilian railroad with 4 rules for investments
- Child abusers - scripting detailed instructions for behavior and interaction
- revitalization of Howard, SD due to high schoolers
Clarity dissolves resistance.
+ Point to the Destination
SMART goals are better for steady-state situations than for change situations because the assumptions underlying them are that the goals are worthwhile. SMART goals presume the emotion; they don't generate it.[*]
Destination postcards do double duty: They show the Rider where you're headed, and they show the Elephant why the journey is worthwhile.

++ Motivate the Elephant
+ Find The Feeling
actually see-feel-change versus analyze-think-change [Alan Hirsch says something like this here .]
It can sometimes be challenging though, to distinguish why people don't support your change. Is it because they don't understand or because they're not enthused? Do you need an Elephant appeal or a Rider appeal. The answer isn't always obvious, even to experts.
+ Shrink The Change
- car wash frequent customer stamps
- maids and whether they think they are exercising or not
If you are leading a change effort, you better start looking for those first two stamps [car wash] to put on your team's cards. Rather than focusing solely on what's new and different about the change to come, make an effort to remind people what's already been conquered.
A business cliche commands us to 'raise the bar' But that's exactly the wrong instinct if you want to motivate a reluctant Elephant. You need to lower the bar. Picture taking a high-jump bar and lowering it so far that it can be stepped over.
When you engineer early successes, what you're really doing is engineering hope. Hope is precious to a change effort. It's Elephant fuel. [*]
+ Grow Your People
When people make choices, they tend to rely on one of two basic models of decision making: the consequences model or the identity model.
Consequences - costs/benefits - purely rational data.
Identity model - Who am I? What kind of situation is this? What would someone like me do in this situation?
Because identities are central to the way people make decisions, any change effort that violates someone's identity is likely doomed to failure. (That's why it's so clumsy when people instinctively reach for incentives to change other people's behavior.) So the question is this: How can you make your change a matter of identity rather than a matter of consequences?
When you think about the people whose behavior needs to change, ask yourself whether they would agree with this statement: "I aspire to be the kind of person who would make this change."
To create and sustain change, you've got to act more like a coach and less like a scorekeeper. [*]
[rational data and results vs. a growth mindset]
You can shrink the change or grow your people, or both.

++ Shape the Path
+ Tweak the Environment
+ Build Habits
Action triggers - preload the decision - create instant habits
The hard question for a leader is not how to form habits but which habits to encourage. [*]
The habit should serve the mission.
A good change leader never thinks, "Why are these people acting so badly? They must be bad people." A change leader thinks, "How can I set up a situation that brings out the good in these people?" [*]
+ Rally the Herd
In a fancy dinner situation, our antennae work great, because someone at the table knows what to do, and we can just copy that person. But sometimes in times of change, nobody knows how to behave, and that can lead to problems.
- groups fail to respond as well as individuals
Peer pressure might be better termed as peer perception.
In this entire book, you might not find a single statement that is so rigorously supported by empirical research as this one: You are doing things because you see your peers do them.
The Elephant constantly looks to the herd for cues about how to behave.
It's clear that we imitate the behaviors of others, whether consciously or not. We are especially keen to see what they're doing when in the situation is unfamiliar or ambiguous. And change situations are by definition, unfamiliar! So if you want to change things you have to pay close attention to social signals, because they can either guarantee a change effort or doom it.
- designated driver
- Tanzanian sugar daddys
- limiting workweeks of medical residents
Change was coming into conflict with culture, and let's face it, a new rule is not match for a culture. [*]
free space - small scale meetings where reformers can gather and ready themselves for collective action without being observed by members of the dominant group.
If you want to change the culture of your organization, you've got to get the reformers together. They need a free space. They need time to coordinate outside of the gaze of the resisters.
Counter intuitively, you've got to let your organization have an identity conflict. For a time, at least, you've got to permit an 'us versus them' struggle to take place. Think of it as organizational molting.

Awesome read. If you are involved in leading, managing, or helping people make things better, get a copy.

Disclosure: I was provided a copy of this book for review purposes.

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