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Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip & Dan Heath

Em Campbell-Pretty
Sep 15, 2013

Switch bookHaving read and really enjoyed Chip & Dan Heath's first book, Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die, I bought Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard when it was first released, however it sat on my bookshelf gathering dust until I heard Jean Tabaka talking about it when she visited Telstra in June. In Switch, the Heath Brothers have done a a great job of making the science of change management simple. The book borrows an analogy from Jonathan Haidt's The Happiness Hypothesis of the Elephant (our emotional side) and the Rider (our rational side). The premise being if the Elephant doesn't want to go in the direction of the Rider, then the Rider is out matched and the Elephant goes the way it wants.

The book is broken into three sections:

  • Direct the Rider - Find the Bright Spots. Script the Critical Moves & Point to the Destination
  • Motivate the Elephant - Find the Feeling, Shrink the Change, Grow Your People
  • Shape the Path - Tweak the Environment, Build the Habits, Rally the Herd

What I particularly like about this book, was the accessibility of the message. As Agilists, it is often our role to change or transform the teams we work with. Switch provides simple techniques that Agilists can immediately apply. I know this, because I have seen it in action. So no matter what your role, if your work involves changing behaviours this book is for you.

Some of my favourite takeaways from Switch:

"What looks like resistance is often a lack of clarity."

"Find the bright spots.. What's working and how can we do more of it?"

"In almost all successful change efforts, the sequence is ... SEE-FEEL-CHANGE. You're presented with evidence that makes you feel something."

"Shrink the change." Not only does this help flow, but "When you engineer early success, what you are really doing is engineering hope".

To read about how we applied Switch when introducing changes to the software development teams that formed part of the EDW Release Train check out: Switch in Action: Business Change Management Applied to Software Engineering

For a more extensive list of books that have inspired us check out our bookshelf.

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