Making Difficult Changes Easier: Shaping the Path

Snow PlowThe authors of the book, “Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard,” argue that getting people or organizations to change requires an appeal to both the rational and the emotional. Telling people they must change almost never works. And numbers (facts, statistics, analyses) can help us understand that a problem exists, but fancy Excel spreadsheets are rarely enough to motivate us. When those numbers are accompanied by a story that appeals to our emotions, however, then people are much more likely to feel motivated to change. Think about the difference in impact of a public service announcement that lists statistics about drunk driving and a public service announcement featuring a mother whose child has been killed by a drunk driver.

A key point from the book is that even when we are motivated to change, we might not know how to change. That’s why organizations who want to change their culture need to think about “shaping the path.” Or clearing the path. Removing bureaucratic obstacles, improving the physical environment, providing clear instructions (“use a designated driver”), eliminating disincentives–what needs to happen to make change less hard?

What looks like resistance is often a lack of clarity

What looks like a people problem is often a situation problem