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The secret to successful change

The secret to successful change

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Published by: Deloitte University Press on Jul 31, 2013
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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The secret to successul change
by William D. Eggers and Chip Heath
 Authors Bill Eggers and Chip Heath recently talked about the topic of organizational change, particularly as it relates to government, as part of a discussion moderated by DeloitteResearch. Tis article is an adapted version of their conversation.
Chip Heath:
It’s not accurate to simply say that people “resist change.” ypically parto us embraces change and part o us doesn’t.One part wants a better beach body comesummer, but another part wants that Oreocookie. For years psychologists have talkedabout the dierence between the analyticalbrain, which plans or a change and thinks itthrough, and the emotional side that’s attractedto the Oreo cookie, or to the comort o theexisting routine.I love the analogy rom Jonathan Haidt atthe University o Virginia. He imagines theanalytical side o the brain as a tiny humanriding on top o a big, emotional elephant. Ilove this metaphor because it gets the rela-tive weights right. I you think you’re goingto think your way into change, that’s the tiny rider struggling against the big emotionalelephant. In any direct contest o will theelephant is going to win. It’s got a six-tonweight advantage.
Bill Eggers:
Te public sector is the placewhere change can be most dicult.You have politicians who come into oceevery our or eight years who want to makebig changes. Tey have grand plans, but they don’t think about the appetite or change onthe other side o the table. Tey don’t put
Republished with permission rom
magazine, November 10, 2010.Read the original article on www.governing.com.
themselves in the position o the olks in thebureaucracy who are being asked to implementthese changes. Te political mind gener-ally embraces risk because it must during acampaign, whereas the bureaucratic mind ismore wary o risk. Te last thing a senior civilservant wants is to end up in the newspaper,because it’s usually or something bad.Just as Chip’s example o the rider and theelephant can be used to illustrate the relation-ship between the analytical and emotionalmotivation or change, we can also use it tounderstand the relationship between leader-ship and a bureaucracy. Te political leader-ship is quite small but desires change, whilethe bureaucracy is quite large, and slow toalter course.CH:In this balance between the rider andelephant, we typically attempt to motivatechange almost exclusively by talking to therider. Tink about public health in the UnitedStates. We have warnings on cigarette packssaying, “Cigarette smoke contains carbonmonoxide.” Who does this appeal to, the rideror the elephant? It’s a purely logical appeal tothe rider.But Canada slaps on a photo that takes uphal the cigarette pack with a vivid image o yellow teeth, and the caption, “Smoking makesyour teeth yellow.” What could work better tochange the behavior o a sixteen-year-old who’sthinking o taking up smoking?oo oen we start o our change eortswith a 35-page PowerPoint deck lled withgraphs and statistics. Tat’s a great appeal tothat analytical rider-side o our brains. Butit’s not particularly eective at providingthe motivation or change on the emotionalelephant-side.BE:Back when we were trying to put aman on the moon, someone asked a jani-tor at NASA headquarters what his job wasand he said, “I’m helping to put a man on themoon.” It was the emotional appeal o doingsomething big that drove this massive changeeort. Te initiative attracted thousands, notonly government employees but also contrac-tors and university people. Everyone involvedelt themselves a part o this vast, importantmission. I you want to get big things done,mission appeal is a key element.CH:You’ve got to do a little bit orboth sides o the brain. Analytical appealsalone don’t work, but neither do purely emotional appeals.A lot o the political discourse in thiscountry today is about anger, a eeling thatwe’re going down the wrong path. But i there’sno clear direction or the analytical side o our brains, or that rider on the elephant, thenyou end up spinning your wheels and gettingrustrated. Bad things happen when emotionsare heightened but there’s no clear path in ronto you.BE:Clarity is important. oo many confict-ing goals can lead to chaos.CH:We see that over and over again inorganizational change initiatives in the areao public health. Our national “ood pyramid”has got all the resources and expertise o theederal government targeted towards helpingAmericans eat better, yet I dey anyone to look at the ood pyramid and come away with any idea about how to improve your diet.Imagine instead i the government hadspent the last three years promoting two ideas:First, every time you sit down to eat, ll uphal your plate with ruits and vegetables, andit almost doesn’t matter what you put on theother hal. Second, give up one sugared sodrink a day. It turns out the typical Americanwould lose 7 to 10 pounds in a year i they drank one less sugared so drink per day.Te government could have changed ourhealth landscape with those two simple rules.But they ended up with a very complicated,complete, relevant, textured plan. You canalmost see the experts doing high ves whenthey came up with the ood pyramid becausethey had covered the complete dietary system.
The secret to successful change
Yet it didn’t change anybody’s behavior. Whatwe have to avoid when we’re working withgovernment agencies or business organizationsis the change equivalent o the ood pyramid.BE:You might wonder why this hap-pens so oen. With IDEO, a private designrm, it’s usually the case that between theirrst prototype and what they actually take tomarket, the design has changed 180 degrees.Failed prototypes help them hone in on a good,workable design. For every iteration, they test aprototype out in the real world to see how realpeople use it. IDEO’s approach to design is toail small, ast, and early.In most government programs, however,people spend years writing up some com-plicated bill without any clear idea o how itwill work in practice. Tey haven’t conductedthe necessary testing, prototyping, and ocusgroups to see what’s going to change behavior.Te result is a bill that is big, complicated, and,too oen, not achieving its intended goal.I like the idea o “shrinking the changebecause you can do a lot o smaller thingsthat build up to something bigger. Oentimesthe best way to get something big done is by breaking it into smaller chunks over a periodo time.CH:Te prospect o change is paralyz-ing when we think it’s too big and pervasive.No one goes straight rom the rst date tomarriage. It’s a progression o rst steps andyou gradually experiment your way into thatrelationship. Yet when we try to do public orcorporate changes, we try to come up with thewhole plan at once. Tat’s scary to the elephant.And yet by shrinking down that change andtalking about the critical moves, you’re pro- viding direction to the analytical rider andmotivation to the elephant.BE:I’ve talked to Chip and his brother Danabout how to apply their ramework to theinternational scal crisis acing governmentand this movement towards austerity we’llbe seeing in the United States, Great Britain,Germany, and all over the world. It’s a hardchange because people are going to have togive up things they’ve long become accus-tomed to. We can’t aord them anymore.Like the Heath brothers, Indiana Gov.Mitch Daniels says it’s important to ocus onthe small things because it changes the culture.Aer a ew small wins, people start looking orcost savings in dierent areas, and they’re ableto see their ideas getting implemented. Youstart to change the culture by nding all thesesmall bright spots. What you’re also doing isshrinking the change. Te size o the scalgap means there will have to be big changes,but once people get into a habit o lookingor cost savings, the big changes will be easierto accept.
About the authors
William D. Eggers,
Deloitte Services LP, is the director o public sector research at Deloitte andthe author or co-author o numerous books on government reorm. His next book,
Te SolutionRevolution: How Business, Government, and Social Enterprises are eaming up to Solve Society’soughest Problems
, will be published in September 2013.
Chip Heath
is the co-author, with Dan Heath, o 
, a bestselling book on change.

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