Tag Archives: change

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.)


fans and disciples

fishes and loavesJesus feeds about 15,000 people. He uses 5 kaiser rolls and 2 small fish. He ends up with leftovers.

For the people present, it was amazing. They were stuffed. They were thrilled. They decided that he must be The One. They decided to make him king.

They were fans.

Jesus knew how to respond. He sent his disciples to the boat, to the lake, to the other side. And he headed for the hills. He headed for some solitude.

When it was dark and the crowd was asleep and his disciples were in the middle of the lake, he walked out to them. They got to the other side, near home.

In the morning, the crowd realized that Jesus wasn’t there, that they weren’t getting breakfast. They went home, too. And they discovered Jesus.

“When did you get here?” they said.

Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. 27Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.”

And then Jesus started to talk about living bread. In the next few hours, in a couple places, he talked about manna and bread and blood. He talked about what he really came to do.

And the crowd thins out. Some say, “We knew your family. You aren’t so big.” Some say, “You are upsetting what we’ve always been taught.” Some just can’t handle the fact that he’s calling on them to do something, to believe differently, to follow him.

John says,

From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.

“You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve.

Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.

Jesus had fans and Jesus had disciples.

  • The fans were there to be entertained and fed.
  • The disciples were there to become like Jesus.
  • The fans were there because they loved when his worldview agreed with theirs.
  • The disciples were there because they loved his worldview.
  • The fans were there because other fans were there.
  • The disciples were there because they had started when no one else was around.
  • The fans were an audience.
  • The disciples were the backstage crew.
  • Fans say, “do that again.”
  • Disciples say, “teach me to do that.”
  • Fans say, “That’s dumb.”
  • Disciples say, “They’ll probably kill us, too, but let’s go with him.”
  • Fans come and go as convenient
  • Disciples live with you.

And of the two?

Disciples change the world; fans just change their rss feeds.

For more on the story, “after it goes great” and “gifts

finding bright spots

“What did you learn about God this week?”

conversationThat’s how I used to start conversations with a friend I’ve been mentoring for awhile. I could have started with “So how have you failed this week” or “did you follow through with reading your Bible every day.”

But I didn’t. I was more interested in knowing what he was learning than with checking up on certain behaviors.

He reminded me of that question the other day as we were talking about Switch, the new book by Chip and Dan Heath. As we started our 2010 meetings for coffee and hot chocolate and conversation, we decided to work our way through this book.

Helping people change

Why? Because both of us are interested in helping people change, including ourselves.  As Chip and Dan point out, “Ultimately, all change efforts boil down to the same mission: can you get people to start behaving in a new way?” (p 4) We need counsel. And this book is it.

Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard is a book about bringing about change, particularly when change is difficult. They identify three critical elements of any process or program of change: direct the rider, motivate the elephant, and shape the path. Said in less vivid language,

“For individuals’ behavior to change, you’ve got to influence not only their environment but theur hearts and minds. The problem is this: Often the heart and mind disagree. Fervently.” (p 5).

As we work our way through the book over the next few weeks, I’ll be making some notes here from our conversations. (If you want a brief overview, go to this video review of Switch as a whole from Chris Brogan.)

Finding Bright Spots

Their first strategy for directing the rider, for engaging the head, is to find bright spots. In moving toward change, rather than spending so much time on what’s wrong or how it happened or who is at fault, someone making a switch will look for what is working, for some example of the kind of behavior you want.

Chip and Dan identify the Miracle question: “If a miracle happened overnight and your problem were solved, what’s the first small sign that would make you think the problem was gone.” And then they identify the Exception question: “When was the last time you saw the miracle, even for a little bit.” (from p 36-39).

We all know about positive reinforcement: looking for good behaviors and reinforcing them. Dan and Chip seem to be going beyond simple care plans and behaviorism. They say, in essence, “engage the people you are helping to change in the process of identifying the good behaviors. Help them think about how things could be better, different.”

Going back to my question above, here’s how it illustrates the “bright spots” approach:

My friend has had plenty of accountability. He knows the rules and the principles. I’m not interesting in helping him keep spiritual rules. What I’m most interested in is helping him learn, in this case, about God in a relational way.  When I help him think about his learnings, regardless of how they came about, I can help him think about how he learned that idea or fact or principle. I’m helping him find successes in growing in relationship, even if it comes in failing at certain behaviors.

But it’s easy to see failures

As we talked, he said “This assumes that there are bright spots.”

I understand his comment. As we look at behaviors, we constantly focus on failures, in ourselves and in others. We run our heads into the wall, thinking “I’ll never get this. I always fail.”

Even as I’m writing this post, I got an email from a friend, remarkably gifted in caring. He’s struggling with believing that to be true.

I understand that struggle. So do you.

But if we are going to change ourselves and the people around us, we need to look for the bright spots that show that we are changing, that there are starting places that are working.

So what do we do?

If you want to stop wasting time browsing on the Internet, finding a bright spot means “Make a list of 2-3 times you turned off the computer and were incredibly creative.” If you want to help your kids stop fighting, finding a bright spot means “make a list of 2-3 times they cooperated.” If you want to get people to be more proactive about accessibility, invite them write definitions of what accessibility means to you.”

As we keep reading, I’ll keep testing the approach that Chip and Dan describe. I’ll let you know what we learn.

For now, what didn’t I explain very well about bright spots?


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.)

Hospital coffee

It’s much better than it used to be. Hospital coffee, I mean. You can get varieties now. There are carts that give you as many choices as you could ever want. Not that it matters much to me.

Black, usually with caffeine.

The other week as I was walking down the hall carrying a cup of coffee, I wondered whether it would bother the person I was visiting. Then I decided that I wouldn’t worry about it. He wasn’t concerned much, either. He was more concerned about getting out.

He did.

Four of us had coffee today. The man we were visiting is still being fed through his vein. A little water is all he can drink. But he’s getting better. The stem cell transplant is working. So far. (And the prognosis is good).

The sleeve of today’s cup talked about change. It was about heart and cancer screenings, about changing habits for better health, making life changes.

That’s probably a good idea, actually.

I mean, hospital visits don’t make me queasy anymore. In fact, it’s kind of a honor to show up and talk and listen and hold a hand and pray. It’s a welcome low-tech, high-touch break for both of us-the person in the bed and me.

But as I think about it, if we put as much money into research, into care, into meds, into prevention as we do into all of our coffee choices, maybe there wouldn’t be as much need to visit.

And drink hospital coffee.

After all, I’d rather meet in a global coffee chain.