Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Switch - How to Change Things when Change is Hard

I read an awesome book by Chip and Dan Heath called Switch - How To Change Things When Change is Hard. I really enjoyed their previous book Made to Stick.

What I like about Chip and Dan's books are that they are founded on real research and have some depth to them. Although I love reading business books, I am finding that many of the books I read are fairly shallow. This one is not shallow.

One of the key concepts that the book uses is that of the elephant and the rider. The elephant is that part of you that is automatic and does things without thinking. Although they don't call them this, I would call these habits (or in my case I like to think of them as success habits). The rider is the self discipline which can cause the elephant to do certain things.

One concept of the rider is the rider actually does not have an inexhaustible supply of energy so when the rider has to do too many course corrections, the rider simply wears out and the elephant ends up taking over and doing things the way the elephant wants to do them. I think it's an interesting concept to thing in terms that self-discipline as a limited resource and as such we need to figure out how to use it well.

The gist of the message is use the rider to develop habits so the elephant has the right habits.

I have always said change is opportunity and I have always loved change at one level. However there is clearly a part of me that does not like change

The book has many practical examples on how to make a switch (or change). They include :

  • Follow the Bright Spots - Investigate what's working and clone it.
  • Script the Critical Moves - Don't think big picture, think in terms of specific behaviors
  • Point to the Destination - Chang is easier when you known where you're going and why it's worth it.
Motivate the Elephant
  • Find the Feeling - Knowing something isn't enough to cause change. Make people feel something.
  • Shrink the Change - Break down the change, until it no longer spooks the Elephant.
  • Grow Your People - Cultivate a sense of identity and instill the growth mindset.
Shape the Path
  • Tweak the Environment - When the situation changes, the behavior changes. So change the situation.
  • Build Habits - When behavior is habitual, it's "free" -it doesn't tax the Rider. Look for ways to encourage habits.
  • Rally The Herd - Behavior is contagious. Help spread.
I interviewed Dan Heath:
Can you describe any tie ins and differences between Made to Stick and Switch. After Made to Stick - why Switch.

When Made to Stick came out, we had the opportunity to work with a lot of people who were trying to make their ideas stick. Most often, they were trying to create some kind of change: a museum director who wanted to inspire other museums to be more accessible to the visually impaired; an entrepreneur who wanted IT directors to adopt his software; a teacher who wanted to change the culture of his private school.

So that was our “duh” moment—the realization that people were using the book’s ideas to lobby for change. Made to Stick discusses effective communication, and that’s one tool that a leader needs in creating change, but it’s not the only one. So we set out to research the question, “How can you improve your odds of changing things?” And in combing through the psychology literature, we began to find really compelling answers—answers that sometimes surprised us. For instance, psychologists have found that our self-control is exhaustible. It gets fatigued, like a muscle. So one consequence of that is that we shouldn’t try to change too many things at once, if we can avoid it. Because when our self-control is exhausted, we’ll find change very difficult.

In short, we got excited by the research and stories we found, and so we started writing Switch.

How did you find working with your brother? Has writing the book made you closer or not? (I was in business with my 3 brothers for many years so it is a point of curiosity.)

It has been a great experience. In the beginning, we had some kinks to work out in our workstyles—Chip is a planner and I’m a procrastinator, so you can imagine the resulting “issues”—but we’ve been collaborating closely for over 5 years now, so it’s smooth sailing these days. The books have given us something to work on together, which is nice. Some brothers fix up muscle cars; we write non-fiction books. Before we wrote Made to Stick, we’d talk maybe once a month, and now we talk almost every day.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Always Fresh - Tim Hortons Story

I read a great book by Ron Joyce with Robert Thompson called Always Fresh, the untold story of Tim Horton's by the Man Who Created a Canadian Empire (thanks Russ). I found the book particularly interesting for me since I know Ron Joyce. I met him at a dinner at Frank Hasenfratz. I also have flown on one of his private jets (although he was not on it when I was flying on it).

I also know Robert Thompson, who is one of the great Canadian business writers. He used to write for the computer trade press then moved on to the National Post. I've always found him to be a great reporter. I was interested to see that he had written this book.

Being Canadian I'm very familiar with Tim Horton's and the success of the chain, even though I don't actually drink coffee. I drink their steeped tea which I thought was a funny way of putting it since I wasn't sure there was any way to make tea except by steeping it.

I like reading the stories of business success, especially one like this since Ron Joyce basically started from nothing, growing up in a small town in the Maritimes, moving to Hamilton where he was a policeman (is there some irony that a policeman would become successful in the doughnut business?).

As I was reading the book I saw that Ron was an innovator, always pushing the edges and trying new things. I think that's one of the critical things in entrepreneurship. Like I always say Fail Often. Fail Fast. Fail Cheap, which I'm sure Ron would agree with.

The book told of his unsuccessful attempt to get an NHL team in Hamilton. This seems to be a recurring theme with the NHL.

I was inspied by the high growth and passion I could feel from Ron about the business.

My brother Lyle actually worked in one of the Tim Horton's camps for a summer or two. I do think Tim Horton's camps provide a good service to underprivideged children and Ron is clearly a huge driver behind that.

Despite loving the business and its success, I am too much of a health guy to get passionate about donuts and coffee. Now vitamins...

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Success Habit and Rules

I read a great blog entry by Peter Bregman on cardinal rules of rules.

I've also been reading a book called Switch : How to Change Things When Change is Hard by Chip and Dan Heath.

Switch talks about success habits or creating things that are automatic and one way to do this is to set rules.

In one sense, rules can be thought of as habits. For example if you have a rule never to eat more than one dessert, or if you have a rule of not having dessert on days that you don't workout these could also be known as success habits.

In his blog on the Rule of Rules , the gist of the message is there's a challenge of rules are not met soon they are not rules at all. This is what we need to use self-discipline for, to start and once things become habits then they no longer require discipline.

I've noticed this when I am leading a company, if people get into the habit of leaving the kitchen dirty (even though there's a rule to leave it neat), then it becomes the accepted norm that nobody puts their coffee mug in the dishwasher. The same thing is true of start times, etc.

So I'm a big believer in success habits (or rules), but the message is be careful not to break them.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Pegging a Habit and helping the Townwide Fund of Huntington

It is a beautiful day here. It started with a 4 mile St. Patrick's Run to benefit the Townwide Fund of Huntington Great day for it. I finished in 29:40 which is not a bad time for me. I placed 74th out of 374 runners.

I am very big on Success Habits. One of my favorite quotes comes from Aristotle:
"We are the product of what we repeatedly do."

Much of our success is as a result of our habits and many people who are unsuccessful, it's only small things they do everyday. So by studying this I believe we can have more success.

The challenge I've had is actually creating a habit. The most obvious way to do this is through discipline and it would be great if we all had unlimited discipline (but I know I don't).

Another challenge I've had is I often want to implement more than one habit at a time (although some experts don't recommend this) and so it becomes difficult to remember all the habits and I would spend all my time reviewing the habits and not enough habits getting my regular life done.

The simplest way that I know to create a habit is to do what I call 'Peg It'.

That's pegging one habit to another habit that is already ingrained.

The simplest one of these that I've done is the habit of deep breathing. I know deep breathing is good for me but I often end up breathing shallowly. So I simply have a habit everytime I sit down I breathe deeply and simply taking that one deep breath often reminds me I should breathe better in general. Even if it doesn't it's one more deep breath than I would have had otherwise.

Another simple habit is doing ten pushups before I go to bed. I often find by the time I get to 10, I often do more. But I do go to bed everyday so it's simple to peg the pushups with my going to bed.

So the message here is simply to think of the things you do repeatedly (stop at a red light, sit down, get out of a car, get into a car, brush your teeth, go to bed, wake up, stop at a red light etc.) and peg the good habit you're trying to develop to that.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Kings Park 15K

I ran the King's Park 15K race yesterday.

I woke to the sound of wind and rain just before 6. I stayed warm under the covers for 15 minutes (not a recommended success habit). I packed warm clothes to change into. For the run, I wore a long sleeve tech tee shirt that I got at the NY marathon. People who run like to wear clothes from other races - sort of a camaraderie thing. I also wore nylon sweat pants, thin gloves and a running hat.

The sign in was in a school auditorium about a 2-3 minute walk from the parking. Enough to soak my jacket through which I would be leaving behind. The time before the race always has an air of nervousness combined with chat with other runners (most of which look in way better shape than me).

I stayed inside up to what I thought was the last moment before heading to the start line. The rain was cold and I was getting chilled (the car said it was 6 degrees C when I arrived). At least the mass of people kept the wind down. The 3 minutes before the start, they announced a 3 minute warning to which most runners groaned - just wanting to get started.

Then the start. I did not hear the gun or horn but just saw people starting to run - perhaps a better word is jog since the mass of runners made it tough to really run.

There was no starting mat for the chip timers on our shoes. I prefer the mats because it levels the playing field regardless of how long it takes to cross the start line. And in a race like this with several hundred runners, it can take a while to cross the start line. I think it took me about 20 seconds.

The race started out downhill but within a few hundred meters soon became an aggressive uphill run. Hill after hill. For the first 2 miles, I fairly successfully dodged the puddles but by 2 miles, my shoes were soaked anyways so I became less particular.

By this time, I was no longer cold (although I was not hot). I prefer running when it is a bit cool (sure beats the heat by a long shot). My shirt was soaked through. I was also finding my stride. My time at 2 miles was 16:24 - fairly good considering the crowds, hills and start line.

I skipped the first 2 water stops. I just did not feel thirsty.

The run took us into the old Kings Park Sanatorium and I had the thought that perhaps this run was just a ruse to make the crazy people like me run into the grounds so they could close the gates and re-open the facility. After all, it is a bit crazy to get up Saturday early to run in the rain.

At 10K, I was feeling good. I was at 52:04 at 10K (8:23 per mile pace) which is slower than I had hoped. So I picked it up a bit and finished the last 5 K in 25:45 (8:18 pace). So final time was 1:17:48. For every race (and many other things in life), I have 3 goals. My goals were - 1) to finish, 2) to beat 1:15 and 3) to beat 1:20. So 2 out of 3.

I was happy to see the finish line and get inside for some food and a change of clothes. I was pleased for having done it. And 15K is a great distance - more sensible than a marathon or even half marathon.

I won a $20 gift certificate to The Bake Shop (not due to my time - it was a draw prize). So I ended up the day with more calories in than out (another success habit I try to do is match my intake with my output)

With the time change and the race, I am feeling lazy today. Will need to change that...

Friday, March 05, 2010

Business Transition Crisis

It's good to be back after an intense conference and learning period in Spain followed by a few days of rest and relaxation.

Certainly helps with one of my success habits, waking up early (by having a six hour time difference).

I read Wayne Vanwyck's book Business Transition Crisis - Plan Your Succession Now and Beat the Biggest Business Selloff In History.

Wayne is an acquaintance and friend so I might be somewhat biased.

This book targets the business owners and some of the points in the book I think are more applicable to small and family-owned businesses. Still, he made many excellent points.

The one thing that i definitely agree on is he suggested setting goals and planning. Success and succession has a lot to do with planning, which makes total sense.

Vanwyck is a big advocate of E-mything you business. This essentially means having process defined in your business and having everything broken down and documented. This makes it easier for a buyer who can then feel the business can run without you (and this is a good idea in any event).

He had an excellent chapter on planning what the entrepreneur who sells the business should do after they have left the business. Selling the business leaves a huge hole and part of success in transitioning involves what are you going to fill the hole with. Again, this is all planning.

There's a chapter on advisors and I have a healthy skepticism towards many consultants and often fear there are actually conflicts of interest because many advisors are paid and aren't truly in your corner. I do believe in taking advice and listening, but it needs to be filtered.

I think the best transition would be if you can find someone who truly cares about you and the outcome for you and can advise from that angle as opposed to worrying about getting paid. Of course this doesn't mean you don't need other experts like accountants, lawyers, advisors and possibly business brokers.

One interesting thing I found in my years of buying businesses is I often liked buying a business which I didn't feel was particularly well run because then I felt that I could make some changes to make it profitable. Some businesses I've looked at seem that the owner/operator is so good and so hands-on that I think I'd lose much of the value when I buy the business because I simply wouldn't be able to keep doing what they do.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Take Their Breath Away Service

I will be happy to be back from Spain today. It seems like a long time to be away. My ToDo list has grown and needs some action. Perhaps I should read my blog post on how to handle too many things to to.

One of the impressive speakers at the YPO conference was David Suzuki. He seems to be a nice person with a level head. He understands that small steps can make a big environmental impact (like eating one vegetarian meal per week). He also understands that economics drive behavior so the best way to create behavior change is to change the economics (make things cost more or less)

I recently read Take Their Breath Away: How Imaginative Service Creates Devoted Customers
by Chip R. Bell and John R. Patterson.

This is a book with a number of short stories about highly successful companies that have been imaginative in their customer service to create a major differentiation.

The book starts with twelve different strategies that can take people's breath away.
1. Animation
2. Reinvention
3. Decoration
4. Camouflage
5. Concierge
6. Partnership
7. Cult-Like
8. Luxury
9. Air
10. Air Defense
11. Scout's Honor
12. Firefighter

Animation is having the positive attitude that is somewhat unusual in dealing with customers.

The following spirit of greatness pledge sums it up.
"I promise to be in charge of my attitude each and every day, to let no one affect that attitude at any time, and to be a contagious spirit of greatness-- 24/7, 365 days a year!"

Under reinvention, Andy Grove sums this up. "Breakthroughs come from an instinctive judgement of what customers might want if they knew to think about it"

Decoration is simply setting yourself apart by having better window designs, layout, unique surroundings, logos, business cards, etc.
A list of the following are:
-Simple Sense
I'm not going to elaborate on these, you'll have to read the book to get that.

The book uses a series of vignettes about real people, real businesses that have set themselves apart by uniqueness in customer service. What I like about the theory is that many of the uniquenesses don't seem to cost much but do help differentiate the business.

It also reinforced focus. Often one service differentiator was all it took.