It is the responsibility of non-profit agency managers – and in the interests of all – to maximize their organization’s responsiveness to the people and purposes they were created to address. Doing so requires that they recognize three surprising things about change identified in SWITCH: How To Change Things When Change Is Hard.
1) What looks like a people problem is often a situational problem;
“Fundamental Attribution Error" describes a deeply-rooted,systematic tendency to attribute
people's behavior to the way they are rather than the situation they are in.
2) What looks like laziness is often exhaustion;
The big change being suggested saps people’s self-control, so one of the reasons change is hard
because people wear themselves out in the process.
3) What looks like resistance is often a lack of clarity.
Multiple options, even good ones, can freeze us and make us retreat to default plans/behaviors;
the result - decision paralysis - is deadly for change because status quo becomes the default
These points contradict negative stereotypes about those who have difficulty accessing traditional social service delivery programs. Those systems' command-and-control methods and pre-fabricated response routines expect all involved – "provider" and "consumer" alike - to adapt to the process and not the other way around.
To stimulate an alternative response, SWITCH authors suggest that all change agents seek to influence not only their environment ("The Path") but also the emotional side ("The Elephant") and rational side ("The Rider") of the person for whom change is advocated.
As they see it, “… the central challenge of change is to keep the Elephant and its Rider moving forward on The Path to which they are both committed … If we appeal to their Rider but not their Elephant, there is understanding without motivation; if we reach their Elephant but not their Riders, there is passion without direction. Ignore the Path and the other two will get lost no matter what you do with them.”
The success of any change effort requires simultaneous, properly proportioned - but not equal - attention to all three of these factors. In terms of this “Path”, it is clear that “… the quality of the immediate caregiving environment tells a much more important story than does any particular program approach.” But while attention to facilities and surroundings are necessary, they are not sufficient to facilitate the change process. In SWITCH parlance, these must be matched by an equally creative strategy for engaging the hearts (the “Elephant”) and minds (the “Rider”) of those for whom change is advocated.
Although avoided by traditional social service models for being more difficult to measure and manage, SWITCH authors’ findings are consistent with other researchers’ work that utilize terms which make staid professionals blush. Such studies explicitly emphasize:
- the cultivation of faith or trust
- the possibility of hope or optimism, and
- the experience of love ... of giving - not taking - care
These are as much pre-requisites to the success of those navigating change process as those identified in Maslowe’s hierarchy. And they underscore a necessity for disproportionate attention to motivation – one’s emotional (“Elephant”) response - that is completely consistent with emerging brain science but exactly opposite from the fixation on development of the rational (“Rider”) side that are hallmakrs of the traditional service model and conventional top-down organizational structure. .
Guidance on how to mobilize in this direction is found on the very first page of The Solutions Focus, which describes “…three simple, elegant and radical ideas…” for advancing change:
1) Be as clear as possible about what is wanted – this is the ‘solution’ on which we focus.
2) Harness what is already in place and use these positive forces to influence the emerging future in
the direction of the solution.
3) Take the direct route to what works by overlooking pitfalls and excursions, such as delving into
problems and what’s not working.”
Or as Gregory Bateson, anthropologist and founder of systems thinking, put it: “… change is happening all the time; our role is to identify useful change and amplify it.” And thereby keep our "Elephant" moving.
* * * * * * * * *
 SWITCH: How To Change things When Change Is Hard - Chip& Dan Heath (2010) page 18
 SWITCH, ibid. page180, citing The Intuitive Psychologist and His Shortcomings: Distortions in the Attribution Process" by Lee Ross (1977)
 SWITCH, ibid. pages 11-12
 SWITCH, ibid. page 15
 SWITCH, ibid. pages 50-53
 SWITCH, ibid. 5-8, citing The Happiness Hypothesis (2006) by University of Virginia psychologist Jonathan Haidt
 Benard, Bonnie - Resiliency: What We Have Learned (2004), page 108
 Maslow, Abraham - A Theory of Human Motivation (1943)
 Jackson, Paul & McKergow, Mark – The Solutions Focus (2008) page 1
 Jackson & McKergow, ibid. page xvi