Successful change as a competitive advantage for your business

Wednesday 07 September 2016


Leading and managing change is a critical skill for success in your business.However, if you continue to do what you’ve always done in your business what happens? Is it possible you continue to get the same results you’ve always got? No! Stand still only if you want your business to go backwards, go downhill, or lose out.


Three reasons why…


1. Your competition gets better and better, not worse


2. Your customers demand more over time, not less


3. Technology advances, it doesn’t retreat


Two examples: Leave your website as it is whilst a competitor improves their website and you’ll lose customers, revenue and profit.


Ignore overnight and weekend delivery when your customers are used to Amazon every day on-time delivery and you’ll also lose out.


To grow your business, you have no choice but to embrace change.


So what do you do to make successful change? In a nutshell, when change works, it tends to follow a pattern. Embrace this pattern and you turn ‘change’ into a competitive advantage for your business.To change is human…Change typically fails because it requires short-term sacrifice for long-term pay off but change we do. We choose to leave our parents’ home, we start new jobs several times in our lifetime, we move in with someone. We move house. We even embrace the profound change called parenting, all common and massive changes. 


Our job is to make change in our business as obvious, as natural and as normal as these life-changing moves, but how? The pattern for successful change looks like this…

Save The Children inspires.....

Imagine walking into Vietnam in 1991, you’re with your partner and your 10-year-old son. None of you speak any Vietnamese. The government are far from helpful. Your employer, Save The Children, gives you almost no funds to work with, your job? To change the lives of the millions of children in Vietnam suffering severe malnourishment and you have just six months to do it in.

This job, Jerry Sternin’s job, looks more challenging than most changes in most businesses, Jerry followed the three-part pattern for successful change, Jerry and his small team changed the lives of 2.2 million people in 265 villages across Vietnam. It took them just six months. More on how Jerry did this shortly.

The three-part pattern works - Your memorable three-part pattern for successful change is a RIDER on an ELEPHANT on a PATH.

Let me explain:

Jonathan Haidt, an eminent psychologist, suggests change works best when you appeal to both the emotional AND the logical side of peoples’ brains.Successful change requires you to:

Direct The Rider– Use a strong, obvious and logical reason for change to influence the rider.

Motivate The Elephant – Appeal to emotions not just to logic to influence the emotional elephant.

Convince both the rider and the elephant to take the clear and obvious path to change and you succeed.

Shape The Path - Make the route, the steps, the path to change crystal clear, obvious, explicit.

Only ever one winner…

It’s logical that we’ll be healthier if we exercise more. So our rider sets an alarm to get up early and go to the gym. But the alarm goes off and our elephant rolls over and presses the snooze button. Anytime the rider and the six-tonne elephant disagree the rider loses! Chip and Dan Heath in their brilliant book ‘Switch’ make the pattern easier to follow:

1. Direct the Rider

• Follow the bright spots

• Script the critical moves

• Point to the destination

2. Motivate the Elephant

• Find the feeling

• Shrink the change

• Grow your people

3. Shape the Path

• Tweak the environment

• Build habits

• Rally the herd

Here’s how Jerry used this pattern in Vietnam…Jerry puts this pattern to work in cooking groups!

Jerry invited the communities he worked with to identify those poor families who managed to avoid malnutrition despite all the odds – (the bright spots).

These bright spots fed their children the same amount of food over four meals a day instead of the normal two meals. They also added shrimps from the paddy fields and sweet-potato greens that most families didn’t.

Jerry’s response? Copy them!

By setting up cooking groups for 50 mothers Jerry helped them to be better cooks (grow your people).

The group also helped shrink the change by scripting the critical moves – (clear cooking instructions). This then helped build (new cooking) habits.

The cooking groups made it easy to point to the destination – healthy well-fed kids in their village.

Working together the mothers found a feeling – hope – "I really can make my daughter healthier."

The cooking groups also helped tweak the (cooking) environment. And getting the mothers together also rallied the herd.

This initial pilot project resulted in the sustained recovery of several hundred malnourished children in several villages. The programme then successfully reached 2.2 million people in 265 villages despite minimum staff, almost no budget, a ridiculous time scale and government resistance.  Clearly using the three-part change pattern worked for Jerry and it can work for you too.


"My people simply don’t want to change, won’t change, don’t change." - Yes, the common thinking is change is hard. Your experience can clearly back this up.

What’s also clear…

"For anything to change, someone has to start acting differently." – Chip & Dan Heath

Manage change like you’ve done in the past and you’ll get the same resistance. Manage change differently, apply the three-part pattern, and you might just achieve greater success at change. Check out the popcorn story in the tools and resources listed on the back page. The story clearly shows that what looks like a people problem is often a situation problem.

"For me to change and my people to change I need a simple solution." - You’re right to seek a simple solution.

For example: an alarm clock that goes off at 6am and scoots off your bedside table to prevent you hitting the snooze button (and means you have to get out of bed to switch it off) is a simple solution - it’s called ‘Clocky’ and available on Amazon. It tweaks the environment and gets you out of bed and on the way to the gym!

A busker who simply ‘seeds the hat’ or a waiter that ‘seeds the jar’ (by putting in coins and notes to show others have given)

will get more donations/tips because she’s rallying the crowd. Otherwise, an empty hat or empty jar is intimidating and points to a destination of not giving!

The successful change three-part pattern of the rider, the elephant and the path offers the simple solution you are seeking. - "If I start changing things, I run the risk of losing my people."

Yes, change creates uncertainty. Uncertainty makes employees feel less safe and secure about their job. Uncertainty makes customers feel less safe and secure about their supplier. It’s why the ’grow your people’ aspect of change management is so important.

Educate your people and your customers about your change and you reduce the uncertainty and risks. Check out the story in the downloadable tools about the hospital that reduced staff turnover (people leaving) by a process of ‘growing their people’.

Tell me more

We hope you’re now inspired to adopt a fresh and structured approach to leading and managing change.  In their inspiring book, the Heath brothers brilliantly share many powerful stories to prove the power of their three-part pattern for successful change. Yes, it sounds like a scene from a Disney movie – direct the rider, motivate the elephant, shape the path, but the evidence the Heath brothers provide is extremely convincing.

Next steps:

Unless you change how you manage change you’ll get the same results, you’ll get the same resistance - "People don’t resist change. They resist being changed."

– Peter Senge, So it pays to use the three-part pattern for successful change.  Start by being the first to change – apply the three-part change pattern:

Don’t expect anything different to happen until you work out how to use the rider, elephant and path metaphor for the change you seek!

Start on small changes and build your knowledge on the three-part pattern for successful change!