Friday, May 28, 2010

Switch: How to Change Things when Change is Hard - Part Two

Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard
This is the second part of a three-part summary of the key ideas in Switch: How to Change Things when Change is Hard by Chip Heath and Dan Heath. It draws heavily on the book and is not intended to be read as original content. (See also: Part One)

Motivate the Elephant

Find the Feeling
The Heath brothers state that, “In highly successful change efforts, people find ways to help others see the problems or solutions in ways that influence emotions, not just thought. . . . in almost all successful change efforts, the sequence of change is not ANALYZE-THINK-CHANGE, but rather SEE-FEEL-CHANGE.”

Jon Stegner believed that the large manufacturer he was working for could drive down purchasing costs by $1 billion, but it would require a significant change in the company’s ways of work. So he looked for a compelling example of poor purchasing habits. His research showed that the factories were purchasing 424 different kinds of gloves costing from $5 to $17 dollars a pair. He collected an example of each type of glove, attached a price tag, and piled them in a heap on the conference room table. Rather than a spread sheet that could be easily ignored, Stegner provided physical evidence that motivated the executives to action.

A short-term way to bring about change is to create a crisis – “We’re in the red! We’ll be bankrupt within a month unless we do something drastic.” However, negative emotions such as fear narrow our focus and are not an effective response to complex, ambiguous problems. In contrast, “When we’re interested, we want to get involved, to learn new things, to tackle new experiences. We become more open to new ideas. The positive emotion of pride, experienced when we achieve a personal goal, broadens the kinds of tasks we contemplate for the future, encouraging us to pursue even bigger goals.”

Shrink the Change
The Elephant is easily discouraged. A task may appear so large and difficult that we avoid tackling it. The Heath brothers recommend finding ways to make the task look smaller and less daunting. For example, a car wash distributed two types of loyalty cards. With one card, customers needed to collect eight stamps in order to get a free wash. With the other card, they needed to collect 10 stamps, but two were already filled in, giving the customers a “head start.” Several months later, only 19% of the eight-stamp customers had earned a free wash versus 34% of the head start group. As the Heath brothers explain, “People find it more motivating to be partly finished with a long journey than to be at the starting gate of a shorter one.”

The Five-Minute Room Rescue is a similar approach to making a large task seem less intimidating. We’ll postpone indefinitely the seemingly mammoth task of cleaning the whole house but are prepared to tackle it in short bites, five minutes at a time.

“Big changes come from a succession of small changes. It’s OK if the first changes seem almost trivial. The challenge is to get the Elephant moving, even if the movement is slow at first. . . . The Elephant has no trouble conquering these micro-milestones, and as it does, something else happens. With each step the Elephant feels less scared and less reluctant, because things are working. With each step, the Elephant starts feeling the change. A journey that started with dread is evolving, slowly, toward a feeling of confidence and pride. And at the same time, the change is shrinking, the Elephant is growing.”

Grow Your People
Another approach is to grow your people by inspiring them to feel more determined, more motivated – and hence more ready to act.

Lovelace Hospital was concerned about the rapid turnover of its nursing staff. Rather than examine why nurses were leaving, they chose to look at why nurses stayed, and they discovered that the nurses who stayed were deeply committed to the profession of nursing. So the hospital decided to find ways to help nurses cultivate their identity. They developed a new orientation program that emphasized the value of nursing and found new ways to reward people for extraordinary nursing performance. Nursing satisfaction scores increased noticeably and turnover decreased by 30%.

A new identity can be established quickly, but maintaining it is hard. Elephants hate to fail, so the Heath brothers recommend creating an “expectation of failure,” an understanding that although you will succeed eventually there will be setbacks along the way. The growth mindset “reframes failure as a natural part of the change process. And that’s critical, because people will persevere only if they perceive falling down as learning rather than as failing.”

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