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January 11, 2012

Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard

Book Review-Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard

When is change easy? Switch sets out to make it easier to accomplish change in your organization, and your life. One of the things that my friends and colleagues call me is a change agent — that is like a catalyst I help drive changes into organizations. Most of the time, I describe that process as a framing process. I’m framing how things look when they’re running correctly. It’s often subtle little things that need to be fixed – a simple check on a requirement for whether it’s measurable or not. Other times it’s creating awareness that some kinds of problems are ordinary, normal, and candidly a sign of danger if they are missing.

Switch is based on a sustained metaphor. The metaphor is this. Humans are like a rider on top of an elephant. The rider is our logical, analytical, consciousness. The elephant is our emotional self with all of its instincts – and power. The rider and elephant are headed down a path. Fundamental to understanding the model is that the rider cannot make the elephant go where the elephant doesn’t want to go or stop going where you don’t want –unless, perhaps, you change the path. (the environment) The rider may be able to reign in the elephant for a while. The rider might be able to prod the elephant on. However, ultimately the control the rider has over the elephant is an exhaustible resource. The rider will get tired and the elephant will get his way.

We spend most of our lives with the rider quietly sitting atop the elephant, not providing the elephant much direction and the elephant walking down a well-worn path. If you don’t believe me, tell me about your drive into work or your drive home. If you’re like most people you won’t remember it. In fact you didn’t remember it the moment you pulled into the driveway. This is a good thing (sort of) because it means the rider doesn’t have to use his exhaustible resource on the elephant. The elephant already knows the way home. However, what are we doing with change? We’re asking the elephant to go off the well-known path. We’re using our rider to prod and direct the elephant off the common paths. If you’ve ever ridden an animal you’ll know that they have this instinctive pull to do what’s comfortable and what they expect. Get on a horse on the way back to the barn at dinner time and he’ll be in a dead run.

There are some funny misconceptions that we have about what causes change. We believe that people are ignorant of the reasons why their current path is bad. A smoker isn’t ignorant of the harmful health effects of smoking. It is, however, the path that’s in front of their elephant. A drug addict isn’t startled when someone in passing mentions that he might be harming himself. Knowledge doesn’t change behavior. Behavior change – and change in general is a SEE-FEEL-CHANGE proposition. The person has to internalize the knowledge. They have to feel the real pain before behavior will change. This works pretty well for individuals – but not necessarily so well at a corporate level.

The best part of the book for me was a question – -a single question “Suppose that you go to bed tonight and sleep well. Sometime, in the middle of the night, while you were sleeping, a miracle happens and all the troubles that you brought here are resolved. When you wake up in the morning, what’s the first small sign you’d see that would make you think ‘Well, something must have happened – the problem is gone!'” Wow. Basically you’re forcing the person to talk about a future state when the problem is gone (change has been completed). You’re also getting specific behaviors that could be created to move things in the right direction. It reminds me of one of my favorite elicitation questions “If you had a magic wand, what would you do?” Or the similar “If you could do just one thing, what would it be?”

I want to end with a final point from the book. Our rational rider seeks solutions which are commiserate with the size of the problem. A big problem needs a big solution. However, in life this is often not the case. A small course correction can make a huge impact if it’s done at the right time. (Think rocket maneuvers.) The really interesting thing is that from the top of the seesaw it’s hard to see where the fulcrum is. You should retrain your rider to think about shrinking the gap between where you want to be and where you are now. Help them slide that fulcrum just a bit to cause larger and larger changes.

While there are certainly more process oriented, more detailed, books to read on creating change – like Leading Change – but Switch is more likely to capture your heart (elephant) and mind (rider).

Don't Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability

Book Review-Don’t Make Me Think

As someone who gets engaged by clients to help them work through their problems, you wouldn’t expect I’d like a book titled Don’t Make Me Think, but it’s perhaps the most accessible book on web usability that I’ve run into. In fact, I’d recommend it to anyone who has to build web sites. Why? Well, it’s short. It’s practical.

The basic premise is that when we look at something small thought bubbles form over our head and they often end in question marks “What?” “How is this supposed to work?” “Can I click this?” … Good web usability has FEWER of those question mark filled thought bubbles popping over folks heads. Obvious right, or is it?

How do we get there? Well, we’ve got to let go of some of our misbeliefs like…

  • We read web pages. No we don’t. We scan, skim, and flit. We’re trying to extract information off the page as soon as possible. We don’t have time to read. OK, sure the occasional article that’s particularly interesting or necessary but by and large we skim.
  • We make optimal choices. Seriously, who has the time for optimal choices? Sources of Power talked about how when pressed for time we don’t evaluate every possibility. The Paradox of Choice talked about the negative effects of maximizing (optimizing decisions).
  • We figure stuff out. Really? How much is there about your smart phone that you don’t know? If you’ve got an iPhone tap the user’s name in messages to scroll to the top. How about something simpler, explain how mobile phones switch from tower-to-tower (when they don’t drop the call)

The book includes some marvelously simple questions for determining how many question marks might appear over folks heads.

I’d recommend that everyone on a project to rebuild an intranet read the book – because it’s accessible to everyone. Maybe there’s something to this idea… Don’t Make Me Think.

Article: Building Trust on Your SharePoint Team

Quick! Define trust. No, seriously, pause and try to define it. I’ll bet you knew exactly how to define it until I asked you. If you did answer, perhaps you answered with “knowing that another person will come through for you.” That’s not trust. Rather, it’s trustworthiness of another person. Successful SharePoint implementations rely on trust in two key ways: first, your team, or coalition, needs to trust one another to be effective. Second, your users have to trust your commitment to SharePoint.

If you don’t have trust in your coalition, you’ll achieve little or nothing as backstabbing and infighting consume everyone’s energy. If you don’t have trust in your users, you’ll have a platform with no one using it. Let’s take a look at how to build the trust you need.–industry-observers-23/sharepoint/building-trust-sharepoint-team-141797 [Article removed]

Article: Training Search to be Your Adult Learning Hero

“Eyes forward. If you can’t pay attention, I’ll rap your knuckles with my ruler.” This may be an echo of a strict Catholic education or it may be a hyperbole of how your child is being trained at school, but either way, it doesn’t have a place in how you educate the adult learners in your organization.

Malcolm Knolwes in his book, The Adult Learner: The Definitive Classic in Adult Education and Human Resource Development , discusses andragogy – or learning for adults – and why it’s different than pedagogy – learning for children.  The conclusion is that there are six key assumptions about adult learning:

  • Need to Know
  • Foundation
  • Self-Concept
  • Readiness
  • Orientation
  • Motivation

Trying to put these together into a single context; it’s clear that adult learners need to be trained at the moment in time that they need the learning (readiness), why they need to know a piece of information (need to know), that they have the foundational concepts necessary to integrate the new information (foundation) and that they have an understanding of the problem they are trying to solve (self-concept).  The training must be focused on solving problems (orientation) and the motivation for learning must map to the internal motivations of the student (motivation).

Read more …

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