Book Review: Switch

Picture of the cover of "Switch" by Chip Heath and Dan HeathI’ve been reading a lot of history instead of industry books lately. I finally decided to pick up an industry book and grabbed Switch off of my pile. I received a copy of it years ago at some event and had been meaning to read it. Recently, several people have mentioned it on Twitter and I took that as a sign that I should finally read it.

I’m glad that I did.

Written by Chip and Dan Heath, Switch covers the ins-and-outs of change management. Having practiced change management as part of projects for 20 years, I saw a lot of truth in this book. The way the authors break it down into core components to help you identify what you can do to help change people’s behavior is well thought out.

The quick summary: if you work on digital transformation projects or any information project where people have to change their everyday routine, I highly recommend this book. Even if you have done change management in the past, this book will help you take a more structured approach to achieving change.

The Elephant And The Rider

This analogy comes from The Happiness Hypothesis by Jonathan Haidt. Chip and Dan describe our rational side as the rider, trying to guide the elephant were we want to go. The elephant represents our emotional side, following our instincts and default behaviors. The rider may want us to head into town but the elephant thinks wading through that river would feel great on a summer day.

When there’s a disagreement, guess which side wins?

And even if your rider manages to win a battle, it drains your energy that you cannot use for other things.

When making a change, you have to appeal to both sides. It may be easier to convince the “rider” with facts but sometimes an emotional appeal will help insure that a change sticks.

A good example they gave was paying down debt. It makes sense to the rider to pay down the high interest loans first. The problem is that after a while, you may owe less but the number of creditors owed is the same. Progress can feel slow to the elephant. However, if you pay off the smallest amount first, you may go from owing 5 different creditors to only owing 4. You can then take the money you gave the now eliminated debt to the next smallest debt.

While it may not make sense rationally, the constant signs of progress of reducing the number of creditors can motivate your elephant. It can keep that effort going after the initial start of the payments.

Don’t Forget The Environment

The authors also talk about shaping the path. With the right path, it is easy for the rider and elephant to proceed to the desired outcome.

I use this approach every day. I love cookies. I have been known to turn them into a single meal when my kids aren’t watching. I don’t mean to do it but it is always just one more cookie. Eventually they are all gone.

Snickerdoodles on a cooling rack in my kitchen

My rider is powerless against the elephant that loves cookies. I may resist for one or two nights but eventually I eat the cookies. That’s when I turned to shaping the path. I stopped buying cookies. It is easy to resist in the store, I avoid the aisle and don’t pick them up. There is no immediate gratification so my elephant is readily guided away from the cookies.  Now I only have to control the elephant when I am in the store. The rest of the time, there are no cookies to march towards.

Mind you this all falls apart when I realize I could just make cookies.

Putting It Together

This all sounds good, but how does this help your everyday? The authors address this by presenting real examples of how people have tackled difficult challenges in changing people’s behaviors and showing how it relates to each of the three components. Additionally, in each chapter, they present a scenario that you can either read through or use as an exercise in how you might better engage the rider, motivate the elephant, or shape the path.

With all of these examples, it was easy for me to think about my past experiences in the context that the authors presented. I could see why my successes worked and it helped me revisit why some past change efforts took more work than they should have.

Read It

There is a reason this book gets a lot of praise. It is useful. If you are in the information governance or enterprise content management (ECM) space, you should give this a read. Change is at the core of almost every project. If you don’t plan from the beginning how you are going to help people adapt to the new world, you are digging yourself a hole.

For those that don’t consider themselves to be in those spaces, I’m sure you’ve been dragged, or have dragged others, into a digital transformation initiative. No matter how you define it, transforming something is change. It may be revolutionary and easy for people to see the benefits. However, the odds are that there are some fringe people on the transformed process that will need some help changing. This book helps you break down different ways to make the change easier.

Many of you have already read this book. What did you think? Did it help you?

Data, Content, Information, and Records Management

Information Coalition's initial view on the relationship between data, content, information, records, knowledge, and documentsThere are so many terms for the things that we manage everyday. Most people’s understanding of them are remnants of what was learned as we each entered the industry. This understanding has been expanded by how we use it in our daily life. The Information Coalition is working on their InfoBok that seeks to finally define these disciplines.

Recently, I was part of a twitter discussion with several people, primarily hailing from the web side of the content management world. It has been many years since I made the argument that the world of Enterprise Content Management (ECM) should include the Web Content Management (WCM) space. The worlds turned out to be connected but distinct. The uses of the word “content” and how it relates to information is evidence of that difference.

I thought I would take time to better share my thoughts where there were more than 280 characters to frame my thoughts. Hopefully, this will stir some more discussions.

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Book Review: The Right Way to Select Technology

The book, "The Right Way to Select Technology"This review is a long time in coming. I finished this book a while back but every time I would sit down to write the review a new crisis would emerge. I feel bad because Tony Byrne and Jarrod Gingras are two industry friends that I’ve known since my earliest days of writing the Word of Pie.

The Right Way To Select Technology describes a comprehensive approach to choosing technology products. It is in-depth and will do one of several things for you:

  • Make you realize how little you know about selecting technology
  • Convince you that you probably should hire help in running the selection process
  • Show you how you can make wiser technology decisions

I fell into the final group. I’ve been doing this for years across a range of products and additional skill development is always welcome. While no process will give you a 100% success rate, the components described by Tony and Jarrod will get you a lot closer to that magic number.

Before I go into detail, here’s the nitty-gritty takeaway: If you advise clients on technology selections, read this book. If you are running a technology selection for your company, get this book. If it is your first selection process, read it, hire help, and make sure the people you hire have read the book.

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Information Governance Can Limit Data Breaches But That Isn’t The Answer


Spocks Brain is Gone, the ultimate in data theftYou may have noticed that there has been a large amount of data and information leaking out into the universe lately. Between people not protecting information, breaking rules around information, or your classic data breach, our personal information is out there, without us, more than ever.

The one thing I hear after every breach is the call for better Information Governance or Records Management. As Don Lueders, whom I respect, put it,

So called ‘data breaches’ are thefts of information and, as such, they are first and foremost a traditional records management problem.  Until organizations understand this and include records management as a critical component of their long term cybersecurity strategy, data breaches – and the disastrous consequences they bring – will continue unabated.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, this is a false sense of security. Disposing of records will not keep you out of the headlines. It will only give you a false sense of security.

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Book Review: Designing Connected Content

Designing Connected ContentTwo book reviews in a row? Yep. As I said in my last review, I’m reading non-fiction a lot more now and I have a backlog of industry books to read. One of the authors of this book, Carrie Hane, is a good friend. I watched her work on Designing Connect Content for pretty much all of 2017. I was very excited to finally get my copy.

For years, Carrie and her co-author, Mike Atherton, have been talking about Designing Future Friendly Content. In the web world this means using a structured content model so that the management of the content is not tightly coupled with the presentation layer. As design trends change, your content and underlying website structure doesn’t have to. Taken to its ultimate conclusion, you are looking at a headless Content Management System (CMS) supporting one or more presentation layers (web, mobile, Alexa…).

They finally took the time to write a book on the topic. It was time well spent.

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Book Review: Web Content Management

Web Content Management by Deane BarkerA long time ago, Deane Barker swung through DC on business and I was lucky enough to have breakfast with him. Even luckier, he gave me a copy of the book he had recently published through O’Reilly, Web Content Management. After nearly two years, during which I read very few non-fiction books, I picked it up and gave it a read.

I’m glad that I did.

I am not going to profess having learned a ton about Web Content Management (WCM) from reading Deane’s book. After all, I have been doing this whole content management thing for a while. However, it was great to read a collection of wisdom from Deane’s decades of experience focused in this domain. Deane is an excellent write and his practical (and witty) use of footnotes really conveys what is involved when you tackle a WCM project.

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InfoGovCon 2017 Continues to Set the Bar High

Governor Raimondo speaks at InfoGov17This post has been a long time in coming because I’ve been trying to process everything that happened this year. Once again, InfoGovCon was a great event and the Information Coalition should be proud at the quality of speakers that they assembled. After all, how many conferences score a governor and get them to talk about something relevant?

Conferences like InfoGovCon are critical for the industry. We are still building a template for consistent success. As Shannon Harmon, whom I had the pleasure to meet this year, put it,

The best practices are still being developed. The body of knowledge is under construction.  This makes information governance an exciting space within which to work.  It can also be immensely frustrating for those who want a well-defined structure in place.  Working in this space requires a certain comfort level with the unknown.

After decades of working in this space, I agree that there are still some unknowns. We have learned a lot about what NOT to do. It is the way we can get things done consistently that we are still putting together.

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