Script the critical moves

We’re a month into 2010 and we’re drowning.

We had wonderful things we wanted to accomplish, goals we set, 3 words we listed. And now, five weeks later, we’re wondering what happened.

  • Wanting change is easy.
  • Changing is hard.
  • Listing options for change is easy.
  • Picking one is hard.
  • Getting lost in the details of a solution is easy.
  • Picking just one thing to do that will make a difference is hard.

Chip Heath and Dan Heath recognize just how hard that is. In the third chapter of Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard, they tell us that having too many options paralyzes us into continuing with how we do things already. (I’m blogging through conversations about this book. Here’s my post on chapter two: finding bright spots.)

The solution?

In this chapter, it’s to script the critical moves. Because options and ambiguity confuse people, the Heaths say, if you want to help people change, clearly identify what you want people to do.

They look at research among doctors, grocery stores, abusive parents, a Brazilian railroad, and kids in a small town in South Dakota.  Throughout those stories, they show us that “clarity dissolves resistance.”

Over and over we ask people to change, we tell people to change, we encourage people to change, but we don’t carefully identify a simple clear step to change. And our brains get confused.

Be healthy.

Develop networks.

Love God.

And then when people ask how, when we ask ourselves how, we have huge lists.

water glassEat better. (More coffee, less coffee,  more carbs, no carbs, more meat, less meat, more fats, less fats, the right kind of fats). Drink more water. Exercise. (how many times a day? What muscle groups? What are muscle groups? How far? How fast? Who is right?).

No wonder so many of us give up in frustration.

I’m working on the health thing this year as part of my 3 words. I wanted something simple to start.

So one of my approaches this year is to drink three extra glasses of water. Some days I even line them up on my desk.

Three glasses.

I’ve got a couple of other projects I’m working on now, projects that involve helping people to change. This concept, “scripting the critical moves”, is changing how I’m thinking about them. It demands way more reflection and conversation and clarification and time.

But what if it works?



Above and following is an affiliate link for the book. If you order it, I’ll get a little money (but it won’t cost you extra.)  Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard.

I also need to tell you that the copy I have is an advance copy I was sent because I requested it. I requested it because I was a fan of their previous book, Made to Stick. However, I will be buying my own copy when the book comes out in February. (And a handful of copies for other people.)


6 responses to “Script the critical moves

  1. This is a great, strong framing idea for beginning change. I have a new client and I’m dealing with their top executive management (the good news) who have almost no idea how interactive marketing works (the bad news) to the point their corporate site still has frames. I was explaining the advantages of something called SaaS CMS to the CFO and she gently held up her stand and whispered “stop.” It took half an hour to get her generally oriented about what SaaS was–and then we mutually agreed to stop the meeting and give her a day to absorb what we had talked about. She came back with four or five well thought questions, and from those we could take the next steps. But “clarity dissolves resistance.” Great post, looking forward to future ones. Thx-RJ

  2. I can see how this would help you focus, and also get clear on whether you really want the change. Often the closer we get to the steps we need to take the more scary the change starts to become… the excuses drop away…

    Sounds like a good book, thanks for reviewing & highlighting your learning points

  3. RJ – I love this story. The listening, the willingness of the CFO to ask for an explanation and your willingness to take the time to explain. You are saying much about developing relationship. Thanks!

  4. Joanna – you are right about the fear. I think that greater clarity about the change, the more likely the fear can be dealt with.It isn’t confusion anymore. It’s a decision.

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