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?

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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Book Review: Women In Tech


This is the book you need to buyIt’s been a while since I wrote a book review, mostly because I’ve been reading fiction and history, neither of which really fit this blog. However I just finished a book that definitely deserves a review, Women In Tech.

First, the TLDR: Read the book!

Women in Tech was written by Tarah Wheeler Van Vlack in conjunction with women drawn from across the tech world. It is a blend of a career guidebook and inspirational stories written by women from different backgrounds. Each woman has made their unique mark in the industry.

Before I get much further with this review, it must be noted that as a man, I am not the primary target for this book. That is not to say I didn’t gain value from reading it. Far from it.

I learned a lot and enjoyed reading the book. Women in Tech is well written, humorous at times, and I highly recommend it for anyone in the tech industry. One last note, as women were the primary audience, my perspective on the book should be considered in that light.

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Review: Every Leadership Book


Over my life, I’ve been through a lot of training outside the traditional classroom. Starting in Scouting and then transitioning into my professional life, I’ve been exposed to a lot of different Leadership principles. When mixed in with my professional experience, I think I have a firm understanding of what it takes to be a Leader.

I have read a few books on Leadership in my day. I’ve been impressed with none of them. When I saw this Dilbert strip, it all made sense to me.

Dilbert explains all leadership books to his pointy-haired boxx

No system works for every organization. No system works for a single organization all of the time. The Leadership style that creates a startup may not work when that startup is a market leader. The Leadership style for a software product company may not work well for an Association.

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Review: The Introvert’s Guide to Success


The Introvert's Guide to Success in Business and Leadership

Years ago, I started following Lisa Petrilli on Twitter as I had found some of her blog posts interesting. She had written several blog posts on how Introverts can leverage their skills to be valuable leaders.

I loved the posts because I am an Introvert. If you don’t believe me, then you’ve never seen me hibernate after a large conference or noticed how I am always easier to find in the first few days of a conference than the end of the event. Being moderately “successful”, the posts usually helped to explain why what I was doing was the right thing or gave me tips on how I could do something better. When The Introvert’s Guide to Success came out, I quickly bought it. Then like many work-related books that I buy, it took me a while to read.

Glad I did.

Serial Readings

As I read the book, I was reminded of many Science Fiction classics. Not in tone or topic, but in style. Many early works were actually a compilation of a series of short stories published in one of the magazines of the day. As such, every few “episodes”, a basic tenet of the imagined universe was restated. This makes a lot of sense in a series that is read over a year or more, but not as much sense in a novel.

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Review: The New Kingmakers


newkingmakers

I will admit that I have been following what Stephen O’Grady and James Governor have been doing over at Redmonk for quite some time. They were doing for developers what I wish people had been doing when I was a developer. When Stephen published his book, I promptly went out and got it…and then had to wait to find time to read it.

I am so glad that I did. It took a little more time to get around to writing this review, but it is important to write because The New Kingmakers is full of truth. What Stephen has written about is the critical start of the trend we are seeing all over the world of technology.

Before I go into that, let me talk about the book.

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Book Review: The Myths of Innovation


berkun-myths-210x315Back in August, I had the privilege of hearing Scott Berkun speak. If you don’t know who he is, you should. He regularly shares nuggets of wisdom that reveal a man that not only seeks to learn from research and experience, but can also merge the two into solid advice.

When I saw him speak at the DC User Experience Professionals Association meeting, he was talking about his book Mindfire. He was giving out free copies to those that participated in the presentation/discussion. When I “earned” my book, I traded for The Myths of Innovation. An earlier book of his, it is one that gets to the root of why I listen to Scott Berkun.

Enough prelude, let’s talk about the book.

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